Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Who is the best number 7 in world rugby?

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James Haskill of England in the action against Australia. Photo / Getty
James Haskill of England in the action against Australia. Photo / Getty

Remember those battles Richie McCaw had with George Smith and Schalk Burger and the arguments which followed about who had the advantage and who was the more complete rugby player?

They were times when rugby allowed a clearer definition of the open-side flanker's duties when comparisons were more direct. McCaw though had to alter his game to shed some traditional duties and embrace an altered workload as he moved into the closing stages of his magnificent career.

We've kicked off a slew of June internationals where seasoned and novice men wearing No 7 on their national jerseys have shown us their calibre. Time then to open the debates about who has impressed the most and taken our attention.

It's been hard to get a handle on Sam Cane's production for the All Blacks. Bald statistics don't suggest lead roles in carries, lineouts, metres made and tackles although he was third in that defensive count in Wellington behind Kieran Read and Joe Moody.

The All Blacks were beaten in the turnovers at Eden Park and even at the Cake Tin.

We are not party to the All Black coaches' plans for Cane and how they want him to work in alongside captain Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino, however he does not seem to be as prominent as James Haskell or Michael Hooper in the test series in Australia.

Both have shown high-end work-rates with Haskell in particular, showing a range of production which was never as evident at the Highlanders or previous England stints.
Hooper has great speed and an opportunistic sense but without David Pocock near him, his effect is reduced.

Over in South Africa, Jordi Murphy was sharp in Ireland's upset opening win while Rhys Ruddock was solid in the second test loss. Siya Kolisi for the Boks has been mixed.
Take your pick from others who've been going around-Todd Clever back in the United States side, Simone Favaro for Italy, Tomas Lezana for Argentina and John Hardie for Scotland.

- 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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