Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: It's all the same job, so let's try a reshuffle

Victor Vito. Photo / Getty Images
Victor Vito. Photo / Getty Images

Think Jonah Lomu if you want a poster boy for positional switches.

Ask Mike Catt and he will hold a different opinion about the man who provoked a telegram to the All Blacks at the 1995 World Cup: "Remember rugby is a team game so all 14 of you pass the ball to Jonah."

The one-time loose forward moved to wing and became the most terrifying force in world rugby with his brutal power and subtle touches.

Maybe the new All Black panel could use Victor Vito's power and skills on the wing, or suggest to Adam Thomson that a chunk of his best work comes on the flank so why doesn't he stay there.

Jersey numbers don't count as much in the modern game - once set pieces are finished, every player is expected to show a range of skills on attack and defence.

So Daniel Carter slipping out a place to second five-eighths for the Crusaders is not such a big deal.

Not in the Super 15 anyway where he can rework his repertoire of skills..

Come test time, Carter is the best first five-eighths in the land. Full stop. End of that debate. But others might benefit from a change of duty.

It is not unusual, although the sight of All Black wing Joeli Vidiri moving into a test lineout role in Australia in the late 90s was a shade disconcerting.

Usually it is the backs who slip on an alternate jersey. Isaia Toeava kept the kit man guessing as he started in the 15, 14, 13, 12 and 11 roles for the All Blacks.

Tana Umaga, Glen Osborne, Leon Macdonald and Luke McAlister inhabited multiple positions; Mils Muliaina and Nick Evans dabbled in several roles.

Christian Cullen and Jeff Wilson did too, but those changes at the 1999 World Cup did not bring the riches Lomu delivered at the previous tournament in South Africa.

Loosies like Michael Jones, Taine Randell, Thomson, Chris Masoe, Jerry Collins, Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read have swapped jobs while Reuben Thorne, Todd Blackadder, Troy Flavell and Jono Gibbes also played at lock.

Many would suggest experienced halfbacks such as Justin Marshall and Jimmy Cowan were loose forwards wearing the No 9 jersey.

The legendary Sean Fitzpatrick wore the black No 2, but was a wing of great menace.

Piri Weepu has moved from halfback to cover five-eighths in a test, one time flanker Eric Rush played wing for the All Blacks and Joe McDonnell swapped a midfield upbringing for propping duties.

New All Black coach Steve Hansen likes to tinker, he challenges rugby convention and he might come up with a novel selection against Ireland in June.

Sam Whitelock or Jason Eaton as blindside flanker perhaps, maybe Ben Franks at hooker or Aaron Cruden to cover halfback and five-eighths once more?

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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