Rugby: Liam Squire establishes himself as successor to Kaino and Read

By Campbell Burnes

Liam Squire makes a tackle on Ireland's Simon Zebo during the All Blacks' 21-9 victory in Dublin this morning (NZT). Photo / Getty Images
Liam Squire makes a tackle on Ireland's Simon Zebo during the All Blacks' 21-9 victory in Dublin this morning (NZT). Photo / Getty Images

Liam Squire has taken another solid step forward in his test rugby education.

The Highlanders loose forward stepped into Jerome Kaino's well-worn 76-test shoes and produced a quality 67 minutes of defence, which epitomised the All Blacks' staunch overall defensive effort.

The No 6 had few attacking opportunities to show his muscular ball carrying - that seemed to be the preserve of the Ireland loose trio of Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien and CJ Stander - but made several dominant tackles and even pulled down ball at No 2 in the lineout in a high energy output.

This was Squire's eighth test and there will be several more to come on this evidence. He has edged ahead of the likes of Elliot Dixon and Steven Luatua to be the man behind Kieran Read and Kaino in that crucial No 8/No 6 role.

There was, in general, more stability in the All Blacks engine room with the return of front-line locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock, but the pack were swamped at the breakdown and conceded too many penalties and turnovers.

However, the locking duo were industrious and galloped around. These was their first starts since last month's Eden Park Bledisloe Cup.

Retallick acknowledged it was "a real test match."

Of those other All Blacks under the spotlight, No 10 Beauden Barrett fully justified - if any justification were needed - his selection as World Rugby player of the year with a try, almost another and a hand in the other two tries, plus 100 percent goalkicking. His critics should fall silent now if they have any integrity.

Centre Malakai Fekitoa is much maligned, for reasons that are not altogether clear but, other than his yellow card for a clumsy high tackle on Simon Zebo, he scored two tries and powered through his defensive duties, barring one miss. He had plenty to do for the opening try from Barrett's crosskick, while he can thank TJ Perenara for a sweet wraparound pass. Fekitoa is firming as the top All Blacks No 13.

Ardie Savea gave a typically energetic display when he replaced Sam Cane at openside flanker and will easily slot into the No 7 jersey next weekend should the latter not be fit.
Coach Steve Hansen has some food for thought for his selections for the final test of 2016 against France in Paris, but he has some options and form to consider.

- NZ Herald

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