Rugby: Who will fill the All Blacks potential void at fullback?

By Sam Warlow

Israel Dagg and Ben Smith have both been linked with clubs in Europe. Photo / Getty Images
Israel Dagg and Ben Smith have both been linked with clubs in Europe. Photo / Getty Images

With rumours of European exodus surrounding both Ben Smith and Israel Dagg in recent months, it appears likely that the All Blacks will lose at least 60 tests worth of experience from the back three in the near future.

The loss of Smith, Dagg or both will leave the All Blacks with some pretty big boots to fill.

So, who could pull on the fabled No. 15 jersey should the fullback stocks deplete come the end of the year? Who will be the next man up.

Nehe Milner-Skudder

After a dazzling Super Rugby season at fullback for the Hurricanes, Milner-Skudder exploded onto the world scene and past plenty of would-be tacklers during the 2015 World Cup.

After taking home World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year honours in 2015, Milner-Skudder looked to have cemented his place in the All Blacks side.

Unfortunately, a serious shoulder injury kept the 26-year-old out for the All Blacks' 2016 campaign and most of the Hurricanes' title-winning Super Rugby season.

But with eight All Blacks caps under his belt, Milner-Skudder will be hoping for a big return in 2017.

Damian McKenzie

McKenzie got his first taste of test rugby at the end of 2016.

Although it proved to be a big learning experience, 21-year-old McKenzie is one of the most electrifying talents in world rugby.

Rewarded with an All Blacks call-up after a stellar Super Rugby season, McKenzie can cover at fullback, first five eighth and wing.

A prolific try scorer with a diverse skill set, the Chiefs fullback crossed the line ten times and finished as the second-highest point scorer in Super Rugby last season.

However, No. 10 will likely be McKenzie's Super Rugby position when Aaron Cruden departs, and All Blacks selectors may prefer a full-time fullback.

Melani Nanai

Melani Nanai has been around the New Zealand set-up, named in the All Blacks wider training squad for the 2016 Rugby Championship.

A regular for the Blues in 2016, the 23-year-old filled a huge void at fullback left by Charles Piutau.

The Samoan-born flyer has great size - standing at 1.94m tall - lethal speed and deceiving strength.

In 2016 he showcased his game-changing ability and is certainly a player that All Blacks selectors will have their eyes on.

Jordie Barrett

The youngest Barrett will no doubt be a fixture in the All Blacks side in the near future.

Instrumental in Canterbury's Mitre 10 Cup 2016 title run, Barrett scored 123 points and kicked goals at a rate of 83.3 percent.

Still just 19-years-old and capable of covering multiple positions, he was named 2016's Mitre 10 Cup Player of the Year and travelled with the All Blacks as an apprentice for the Autumn Internationals.

The same role Ardie Savea played before graduating to the full squad, it's only a matter of time before we see another Barrett in black.

Charles Piutau

Although this might be a sore point for plenty of fans, Charles Piutau would slot into fullback nicely should he return to New Zealand.

Last year he said that his plan was to come back from Europe "and have another crack at the All Blacks."

It's no question that he has the talent, and it seems like Piutau's return is a "when" more than an "if".

Currently locked into a two-year deal with Irish club Ulster, the earliest we will see Piutau back on our shores is 2018.

Still just 26-years old, we may not have seen the last of Charles Piutau in the black jersey.

- NZ Herald

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