Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Three tough decisions for ABs

Ma'a Nonu looks on with team mate Charlie Faumuina. Photo / Getty Images.
Ma'a Nonu looks on with team mate Charlie Faumuina. Photo / Getty Images.

In picking their team to play France, the All Black selectors would have faced three genuinely tough decisions.

The first would have been at tight-head prop. At the start of the season it was simple - Owen Franks was maybe a length in front of Charlie Faumuina. And another length ahead again of his brother Ben and Ben Afeaki.

But in the last six weeks Faumuina has moved up on the rails. At 130kg, he's the bigger man. He's also the more natural athlete and ball player - as was evidenced in his contribution against Australia in Dunedin.

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Faumuina can pass and catch, he can run and against Australia he pulled off turnovers that a test openside would have been proud of.

Franks is still likely to start against France, but more on the basis that he needs a run after a long injury lay off and because his experience is considerably greater. Against England, though, it may be a different story. That may boil down to a straight form choice and Faumuina's mobility and ability is beginning to make it feel that he may be the better option.

Certainlty longer term, he may overtake Frabks next year in a permanent basis.

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The second tough call would have been at No 10. And for much the same reason that Franks probably starts, so too does Daniel Carter. He hasn't played enough football to be judged fairly this year.

The third puzzler will have been at wing. Charlie Piutau has played superbly in his last two outings: done everything and more that has been asked of him. But Jane, who has only managed one and half games of ITM all season really needs to get on the track if he's to be of any use on this trip. Julian Savea has been impressive all season and as well as Piutau has played, he's trying to force his way past two world class exponents of wing craft. He may yet win the nod as Savea trooped back to his bed after breakfast today and is still feeling the effects of a heavy cold.

The rest of the side would have been easy enough to pick with established pecking orders that are fairly obvious. The challenge for the wider squad is to put more pressure on the selectors: for there to be tough calls to be made in more than just three positions.

- NZ Herald

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