Richard Loe 's Opinion

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

Richard Loe: Fekitoa looks just what ABs need

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Malakai Fekitoa looks a player the All Black coaches would be comfortable starting at centre. Photo / Getty Images
Malakai Fekitoa looks a player the All Black coaches would be comfortable starting at centre. Photo / Getty Images

A couple of things will have become clearer for the All Blacks coaches after the Highlanders' defeat of the Hurricanes - not least the fact they will be feeling pretty good about Malakai Fekitoa.

I thought he played well on a difficult night. The Highlanders didn't have much front-foot ball, didn't have much opportunity to attack or release Fekitoa's flair. He was industrious on defence, though, and I particularly liked his attitude to fix his mistakes.

He had a moment in the first half when he charged at the line and got caught out of position. Andre Taylor was able to coast past him and put Cory Jane away but Fekitoa put the gas on and got back to cover.

How many times do you see players throw their arms up or roll their eyes and stop when they make a mistake? Not Fekitoa. He realised straight away what he'd done and got back to fix it.

He made another excellent cover tackle later in the game and I think the All Blacks coaches will feel they have a player they are comfortable starting at centre if Conrad Smith is injured. They will drum into Fekitoa when they get him in camp, that all he has to do is his job.

They will tell him he doesn't need to worry about the players around him - just focus on doing his job well, hitting his man hard and he'll go just fine.

I'm not so sure the coaches will feel the same way about halfback. There is no doubt TJ Perenara was able to upset Aaron Smith at the boot of the scrum but that, to my mind, was probably a failing of Nasi Manu's and not Smith's.

Smith needed to be protected and he wasn't, which let Perenara be a real nuisance. The Hurricanes youngster did that well and looked sharp in the way he pounced to score his try but I didn't think he played all that well other than that.

Smith is still the No 1 halfback for me. He has plenty of flair, but what I like is the way he uses it within the structure and patterns of the team. His passing is consistently on the money and it comes back, again, to players in the All Blacks merely having to do their own jobs.

Smith will get better protection at the boot of the scrum from the All Blacks, while I'm not yet convinced Perenara's style is appropriate for the type of rugby the All Blacks want to play.

- Herald on Sunday

Richard Loe

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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