Now and then you have a moment when you see the future because of something in the past.

It happened from Nelson on Saturday night.

I saw the brilliant future of the All Blacks, because I saw a player who reminded me of the legendary Michael Jones.

His name is Shannon Frizell, and before the 24-year-old ran out of puff he carved Argentina up.


The All Blacks - no doubt fired by the disappointing draw with Warren Gatland's Lions last year - are searching for new planets unreachable for others, and they've just uncovered a rocket ship.

There have been many outstanding All Black athletes in the decades which comprise the World Cup era, but none have reminded me of the great Michael Jones before.

Frizell is built powerful and sleek like Jones, he runs like Jones, and he's probably got better hands than Jones.

It was the mixture of frightening power and speed wrapped in gracefulness which stood out, along with one particular swivel-pass having attracted defenders to his threat.

Great loose forwards have been a fixture in All Black sides. In the World Cup era, names like Shelford, Brooke, Whetton, Kronfeld, McCaw, Kaino, Read...

But if you asked around the rugby world, Michael Jones — the graceful athlete who was the golden presence in the 1987 triumph — is the name that would draw the fondest recall, like a Kiwi racing diehard talking about Phar Lap.

The Iceman paved the way for a new type of athletic forward, but he was so unbelievably good that no one could really follow.

Michael Jones. Photo / Photosport
Michael Jones. Photo / Photosport

Things just stick in your mind, from all sorts of places.


There was a Ranfurly Shield game one day when the Auckland superstar hurtled off a lineout and arrived at the far-side Counties winger the same time as the ball. Afterwards a Counties coach just shook his head, said there was virtually nothing you could do when having to contend with such greatness.

There was a game at Waitemata one day when Jones made consecutive try-saving tackles in opposite corners, then launched a raid upfield. It was a gloomy night, and you felt privileged to be there.

Jones was unchallenged, and still is in many minds. After gracing the No 7 jersey, he reconstructed his career as a thunderous hitman when injury forced a body reconstruction.

You can see the potential for both versions of Jones in Frizell — the power and the glory.

The big difference: there is a lot more competition for a place in the All Blacks these days.

On what we saw against the Pumas, who are tough men even if their scrum power has collapsed, Frizell is a must for the World Cup. But that doesn't mean he will make the top matchday 23, yet.

He doesn't cover lock and might be battling someone like the dynamic and vigorous Ardie Savea - more a bucking bronco than a graceful gazelle - for a bench spot.

There are also other rising forces, particularly Vaea Fifita and his wild piston-like charges.

But it's 30-plus years since I first saw anyone like Shannon Frizell.