To start or not to start?
What to do with lock Brodie Retallick is the big call All Blacks selectors need to make ahead of the naming of the squad to face Ireland in Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final.
Retallick returned from a dislocated shoulder to play 30 minutes in what turned out to be the All Blacks' final pool game against Namibia. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was hoping to give the Chiefs standout another 60 minutes of gametime against Italy but the game was cancelled.
That leaves Retallick lacking in match fitness ahead of the knockout stage. So what should Hansen and co do?
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Retallick will start on Saturday, no doubt about it. He's fully fit and starting him will allow Steve Hansen to limit his game time to about 50-60 minutes before he makes way for Scott Barrett.
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Difficult one on the face of it. Retallick has got through 30 minutes of competitive footy in almost three months. After his return from the dislocated shoulder against Namibia, the plan was to bump that up to 60 against Italy so the cancellation leaves him well short of gametime. He could be seriously destructive off the bench in the second half when Ireland are tiring, and Scott Barrett is playing well, but it's hard to see the All Blacks not letting Retallick loose from the outset. His engine is such that he should have no worries, and his long limbs could be influential in countering Conor Murray's box kicks.
I can't imagine the All Blacks not giving Retallick the start in this one. Personally, I'd love to see him come off the bench and smother the Irish attack down the stretch, but it's perhaps safer to get him involved from the outset. As Liam mentioned, his length could prove to be an asset against Conor Murray's box kicking, and we all know what he can do around the breakdown. But starting him means if there are any issues, Scott Barrett will be ready to go in his place. Barrett has a massive engine and could play the full 80 if required. Starting Barrett would mean they would have to scramble a little bit if Retallick replaced Barrett but was forced back off the pitch.
When they named the squad for this tournament, Steve Hansen told us that even though Brodie Retallick would only be available for the knockout games, selecting him was worth the risk because of how special a player he is. They told us in August he would start in the quarter-final if fit. Well he's fit, so he starts.