Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe: Latimer ahead of Cane in my team

Tanerau Latimer. Photo / Getty Images
Tanerau Latimer. Photo / Getty Images

It's All Black selection time and there's unlikely to be many surprises, even in the 31-man squad which will be a pointer to the end of year tour. However, there are a few surprises in the Richard Loe 23-man game-day team which will differ, as usual, from that chosen by Shag Hansen and Co.

At hooker, I think it's time to farewell Andrew Hore and I'd go with Keven Mealamu and Dane Coles - and it'll be interesting to see how much game time they give Coles. Quite a bit, I'd say.

The props are easy - the Franks brothers, covering tighthead and loosehead, plus Ben Afeaki and Wyatt Crockett at tighthead and loosehead respectively. No Ben Tameifuna as he is clearly not yet an 80-minute footballer. The locks pick themselves after injuries: Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano and Ali Williams could have the shortest retirement known to man.

The loose forwards contain a surprise - I'd go for Tanerau Latimer ahead of Sam Cane.

I think he's been playing better than Cane although the All Black camp will give Cane a trot in Richie McCaw's absence. There is an argument for picking Brad Shields too but he'll be in the 31, as will Cane. I'll go with Victor Vito who can cover all three positions and new cap Steven Luatua would complete the loosies - and could cover lock at a pinch.

At halfback, Piri Weepu is No1 (concussion willing, after his head knock last night) and TJ Perenara the understudy. If Weepu is ruled out, Tawera Kerr-Barlow comes in. Aaron Smith's form has been awful and he's been subbed off too much for my liking. He's a good player and will come again.

I'd start Dan Carter at 12. There's no Ma'a Nonu - wouldn't have him; Tamati Ellison could come into the 23 if Weepu is missing (as Weepu was covering 10 as well). Aaron Cruden starts at 10. Conrad Smith would be centre, with Ben Smith as back-up. Rene Ranger would come into my 23 if anything happened to either Smith.

On the wings, Julian Savea and Frank Halai, another new cap. He's been impressive and deserves a start - and would have done even if Hosea Gear wasn't heading to play in France. Israel Dagg would be at fullback. There's an argument for Chiefs player Robbie Robinson or the Blues' Charles Piutau to cover fullback/wing/midfield as well but Ben Smith could do that.

My 23 for the first test against France would be:

Hookers: Dane Coles, Keven Mealamu. Props: Owen Franks, Ben Franks, Ben Afeaki*, Wyatt Crockett. Locks: Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Ali Williams Flankers: Liam Messam, Steven Luatua*, Tanerau Latimer. No 8: Kieran Read (c), Victor Vito. Halfbacks: Piri Weepu, TJ Perenara*. First fives: Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden. Midfield: Conrad Smith, Ben Smith. Wings: Julian Savea, Frank Halai*. Fullback: Israel Dagg. * = new cap

- Herald on Sunday

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Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Wyllie Loe was a renowned All Black forward prop who plied his trade for the New Zealand national team between 1987 and 1995. Loe was well known by fans and team mates alike as an ‘enforcer’ on the pitch, a player who balanced his abilities with the ball with a tough-tackling prowess and a penchant for physicality. During an outstanding career Richard Loe represented his country of birth in no less than three World Cups, assisting the All Blacks to a famous victory in 1987. Along with fellow team mate and captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Loe formed one of the most formidable forward lines ever to lead the All Blacks. Despite his sometimes overly physical dominance on the pitch, Loe is regarded by former team mates as being an exceptional character and professional. Following retirement from rugby Loe became a sport columnist for the New Zealand Herald, a position he still holds today.

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