Richard Loe on rugby
Richard Loe is a former All Black

Richard Loe: Form, injuries a big worry ahead of tests


You'd have to say it would be a strange side if you were picking an All Black team right now and ruling out anyone carrying an injury or not in form.

It's not long until the June tests and, while that won't be worrying the All Black selectors overmuch when you take into account the greater scheme of things, the rest of us are looking a bit sideways at our overall rugby form.

We know Super 14 form mostly doesn't translate into international form but there are still some worrying signs so far this year - particularly the Chiefs' disgraceful exhibition against the Stormers on Friday.

If we took the no injuries/form criteria, I believe the All Black team right now would look something like this: Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Wyatt Crockett, Brad Thorn, Chris Jack, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Alby Mathewson, Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Zac Guildford, Rudi Wulf, Cory Jane. Substitutes: Keven Mealamu, Neemia Tialata, Jeremy Thrush, Adam Thomson, Brendon Leonard, Steven Donald, Isaia Toeava.

Injured and therefore unavailable: Tony Woodcock, John Afoa, Anthony Boric, Ali Williams, Tom Donnelly, Jason Eaton, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Mils Muliaina. Of course, some of these guys will recover and take their place but we're talking 'here and now'.

Some eyebrows will be raised at Wyatt Crockett in the front row but he had his best game for a long time against the Waratahs (even though he was only up against Al Baxter) and he was superb around the paddock, which may suit the game the All Blacks may play this year.

Chris Jack also played well - I thought last week was a good step back towards the All Blacks. He did not do anything spectacular but he did the basics well, got around the field and was good in the tight-loose stuff. Having so many locks out means we need experience.

Young Sam Whitelock has the goods but it's too early for him right now and Thrush is there, well, because there basically isn't anyone else.

At halfback, Mathewson is clearly the form player and I wouldn't have Jimmy Cowan or Piri Weepu at the moment. On the wing, Joe Rokocoko is also heading back towards the All Blacks with his form but I don't think he is quite there yet. I'd pick his Blues partner Wulf right now for his all-round game. He's been attacking well and I don't think former All Blacks like Hosea Gear and Ben Smith have done enough and Rene Ranger needs more time.

Some will also raise eyebrows at Donald's selection on the bench after I have been critical of him in the past. Again, I don't think there is anyone else. I am not a Luke McAlister man and I don't think he is in form anyway.

Stephen Brett is too up and down, Colin Slade hasn't had enough game time and Aaron Cruden and Richie Robinson just aren't ready yet and still have to demonstrate that they will be. Players such as Richard Kahui also miss out for form reasons.

It's a slightly odd-looking side, I agree, but that's where New Zealand rugby is right now. There's a long way to go.

- Herald on Sunday

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