Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Moala's strengths perfect fit for All Blacks midfield

There are no doubts about George Moala's ability to deal with the physical challenges of international rugby.

The man is strong, so naturally powerful when he arrived a few years back for his initial assessment at the Blues that he busted all sorts of weightlifting marks. He had no history of lifting weights, he simply grabbed the tin and hoisted it.

He's played more than 50 games now for the Blues, mostly in midfield where his power allows the Blues to damage the advantage line.

Moala made his solitary All Black test appearance on the right wing last year against Samoa where his power and choppy running style were a great advantage in the All Blacks scrappy win. He collected the pill and ran.

That's his forte. If defenders don't get their technique sorted, Moala will bounce them out of his way with his power and carry the attack forward.

He's switched between second five and centre for the Blues this year and is able to create targets and rucks for them to develop their next wave of attack.

Those tactics pander to the destructive elements in Moala's game which are his strength and also a limiting part of his development. The criticism is that he makes his breaks but then tucks the ball or has trouble then linking with his teammates.

He missed initial All Black selection for the June tests but was called up when Charlie Ngatai could not shake his concussion problems. Moala could cover midfield while Malakai Fekitoa and Ryan Crotty started the first two tests against Wales with Seta Taminavalu as substitute.


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Moala has now leapfrogged Taminavalu and will start at centre in Dunedin. What does that indicate? There will be suggestions it shows the selectors are wary about putting Taminavalu up against the experienced duo of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies and are also looking for a more rugged straight line approach.

It hints Moala has made some strong moves in his month training with the All Blacks and the coaches have been able to make some shifts they want in his style.

He has been named in the No 13 jersey however he and Crotty may interchange their roles with Moala operating in the closer more physical channels with the more talkative Crotty left to scan the field and call plays.

That would be a version of the old Nonu/Smith partnership and a selection template the All Black selectors may be looking to rekindle.

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- NZ Herald

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