The bold and brave new era of All Blacks rugby continues with promotion of an uncapped 24-year-old

The bold and brave new era of All Blacks rugby continues apace with today’s dramatic promotion of uncapped 24-year-old Canterbury son-of-a-gun Tom Taylor to his first test start.

The theory that coach Steve Hansen is rewriting the once conservative book on All Black selection gained further credence when Taylor was named to start at No 10 for Saturday’s second Bledisloe, and Rugby Championship, test against the Wallabies at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.

With Dan Carter (torn calf), Aaron Cruden (knee) and Beauden Barrett (calf strain) all ruled out for Saturday, the All Blacks were down to the fourth and fifth rung on their depth chart when they called up Canterbury team-mates Taylor, son of 1987 World Cup-winning midfielder Warwick Taylor, and 10-test international Colin Slade to bolster their first five-eighths stock.

The conservative pick – the one the All Blacks would probably have gone for under any number of previous coaches – would have been Slade. He has test experience, and that normally counts for a lot. He was even part of the 2011 World Cup-winning campaign, before limping off in the quarter-final with a groin tear.

But Hansen has shown he is a more progressive and more willing to take risks to achieve results than his grounded southern persona perhaps reflects.

Taylor is the risky selection, but also the exciting one. This is a young man who looks like he could be something special, with a steely goalkicking nerve – he slotted them at 90 per cent for the Crusaders this year – and a natural feel for the game that is clearly in his genes.

Slade is also a gifted footballer, but he has struggled to regain his very best form since suffering a succession of injuries following the last World Cup. At 25 he has time still on his side, but he is a young man rebuilding his confidence, rather than revelling in it.

Taylor has been on the All Blacks radar for a while now, with his ability to play 10, 12 or 15 with equal assurance. In fact, his lack of game-time at No 10 further underlines the audacity of Hansen’s selection.

Taylor played one warmup game at first-five for the Crusaders before starting seven matches at second-five and a further three at fullback during their Super Rugby campaign.

But Hansen is happy to roll the dice with an opportunity that has come a little ahead of schedule, and maybe in a different position than he might have envisioned.

“He is mentally tough and plays the game with a lot of confidence and maturity,” said Hansen. “These factors, along with his assured goalkicking under pressure, has made this an easy selection.

“We have every faith that he will handle the occasion with aplomb.”

Taylor is one of two injury-enforced changes from the team that started last week’s impressive Bledisloe victory over the Wallabies in Sydney.

The other will raise less eyebrows, with well performed Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick coming in for Luke Romano who is out for the remainder of the Rugby Championship with a groin injury.

The test will also be the 100th cap for veteran loosehead prop Tony Woodcock who is part of an unchanged front row, deservedly retained after their superior scrummaging display in Sydney.

There is more movement in the reserves, where Wellington hooker Dane Coles comes back into the matchday 23 after proving his fitness at provincial level, as does fit-again prop Wyatt Crockett and Lions skipper Jeremy Thrush to cover lock.

In the backs, Slade makes is named in the All Blacks for the first time since 2011 and Taylor’s ability to cover second-five means Auckland’s Charles Piutau replaces Ryan Crotty as the outside back cover.

Hansen said it would be a special test for Woodcock as he became the All Blacks’ fourth test centurion, behind skipper Richie McCaw (117), Keven Mealamu (105) and Mils Muliaina (100).

Some had wondered whether Woodcock’s days were numbered after Crockett’s performances in the June tests, but last Saturday night provided a timely reminder of what the 32-year-old is still capable of.

“Woody is a hugely respected player within the group who always puts the team first,” said Hansen. “It has been business as usual for him and the team this week, but we will enjoy acknowledging his achievement with him after the game.”

Hansen also warned against any complacency following the 47-29 victory in Sydney that sees the All Blacks just one win away from retaining the Bledisloe Cup for another year.

“They will be hurting after that test and will throw everything at us,” he said. “They will be looking to play with more accuracy and intensity, so we will need to meet – or better – that with a higher level of execution right across the board.”

Meanwhile, Frank Halai (Counties Manukau), Joe Moody (Canterbury) and Brad Shields (Wellington) have been released to play in week two of the national provincial championship if required.

All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Tom Taylor, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Steven Luatua, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Jeremy Thrush, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Colin Slade, Charles Piutau.

– © Fairfax NZ News

NO All Black Rugby tests for Cape Town till after 2015 if that -see below !

The fixtures are*: Castle Incoming Tour

· Saturday, June 8 (Mbombela Stadium): Scotland v Samoa; Springboks v Italy

· Saturday, June 15 (Mr Price Kings Park): Samoa v Italy; Springboks v Scotland

· Saturday, June 22 (Loftus Versfeld): Team 3 v Team 4 ; Team 1 v Team 2

2013 Castle Rugby Championship:

· Saturday, August 17 (Free State Stadium): Springboks v Argentina

· Saturday, September 28 (Newlands): Springboks v Australia

· Saturday, October 5 (Coca-Cola Park): Springboks v New Zealand

2014 Fixtures (dates to be confirmed):

· Castle Incoming Tour: Springboks v Wales (Johannesburg)

· Castle Incoming Tour: Springboks v Wales (Nelspruit)

· Castle Incoming Tour: Springboks v Scotland (Port Elizabeth)

· Castle Rugby Championship: Springboks v Argentina (Pretoria)

· Castle Rugby Championship: Springboks v Australia (Cape Town)

· Castle Rugby Championship: Springboks v New Zealand (Johannesburg)

2015 Fixtures (no Castle Incoming Tour due to Rugby World Cup):

· Castle Rugby Championship: Springboks v Argentina (Cape Town)

· Castle Rugby Championship: Springboks v Australia (Durban)

· Castle Rugby Championship: Springboks v New Zealand (Johannesburg)

*Please note: All fixtures subject to the agreement of commercial terms with planned hosting venues.

Issued by SARU Corporate Affairs

All Blacks spend day hugging the hotel toilets.

Just 48 hours before the final test of an arduous season, almost all of the All Blacks have been struck down by sickness.

Only two members of the extended 34-man playing squad escaped the potentially debilitating bug which first swept through the team in Cardiff last week.

Lock Luke Romano, who is on the bench this weekend at Twickenham, is still struggling and did not train today, but is expected to recover.

All Blacks management haven’t been spared and even Canterbury first five-eighth Tom Taylor, who joined the team in London as injury cover, caught the contagious diarrhoea and vomiting symptoms.

The illness is another challenge facing the All Blacks as they approach their 14th and final test of the year on Sat.

Coach Steve Hansen already had to deal with Andrew Hore’s suspension distraction, wide-spread fatigue and injury concerns, though star pivot Dan Carter, hooker Keven Mealamu and prop Tony Woodcock all came through training unscathed today.

“It’s been a difficult week with a lot of people being sick,” Hansen revealed. “We’ve had guys go down with diarrhoea and vomiting. There’s only two that have missed out. Just getting that mix right has been difficult. Hopefully we’ve been smart enough to keep the energy tank full.”

In private Hansen may have reservations about the influence of the fast-spreading sickness, but he put on a brave face and didn’t let it affect his sense of humour.

“Apparently half of the UK has got it. Hang around here long enough and we’ll give it to you,” he joked to media.

Instead of soaking up the sights of London, most players spent the majority of their day off yesterday hugging the hotel toilets.

“Personally I’m feeling a lot better today. I know the boys had a good guided tour of their bathrooms yesterday on their day off. I think there was a good number. That’s just the way it was,” All Blacks No 8 Kieran Read explained. “I think it’s a 24 hour thing. I haven’t seen everyone today.”

The sickness shouldn’t be anything like the “Suzie the waitress” food poising that ripped through Laurie Mains’ All Blacks before the 1995 World Cup final.

Read downplayed concerns it could expend depleted energy levels.

“I wouldn’t think so. It’s just something you have to handle. We’ll be right for Saturday,” he said.

Replacement hooker Hika Elliot and wing Julian Savea were the only members of the team not to be affected.

“I was fortunate enough to not be sick. I was enjoying my day off,” Savea chuckled thankfully.

Meanwhile, England coach Stuart Lancaster has backed Owen Farrell to replace injured first five-eighth Toby Flood in the only starting change to his team that lost by one point to the Springboks last week.

“He’s got huge qualities. He’s got big game-temperament. It’s a quality that’s important in the international game,” Lancaster said of Farrell, who was nominated for the IRB player of the year award. “He’s excited because he wants to challenge himself against the best. He’s got no better opportunity to have a benchmark.”

– © Fairfax NZ News

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New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, 29, has been named the IRB player of the year

The All Blacks have been rewarded for a stellar 2010 campaign by sweeping the International Rugby Board (IRB) awards, which were announced this morning (NZT).

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, 29, has been named the IRB player of the year and becomes the first player to win the award three times since its inception in 2001.

The No 1-ranked All Blacks were predictably named team of the year after winning 13 of 14 tests this year and bagging the Tri-Nations title, Bledisloe Cup and European Grad Slam, while Graham Henry was unveiled as coach of the year for a record fourth time after previously winning the award in 2005, 2006 and 2008.

McCaw faced stiff competition for the player of the year award with teammate Mils Muliaina, South African lock Victor Matfield, No 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, of France, and rising young Australia stars David Pocock and Kurtley Beale all performing well during the year, but McCaw consistently impressed the IRB’s awards panel with some outstanding performances.

“Rugby is fortunate to have a player and person of the calibre of Richie McCaw,” said awards panel convenor John Eales, the former Wallabies captain.

“He is an outstanding captain, a world class player and a role model for our sport. In winning the award three times, Richie has truly cemented his place right up there amongst some of the greats.”

McCaw who alongside Muliaina is the most-capped All Black with 94 test caps, said: “It’s been a good year and everyone has made a huge effort, from the coaches right through all the players. It’s been a lot of fun as well to work with quality players, and I just love playing rugby and especially international rugby.”

Henry said his award reflected the “hard work” of the team.

“It is also an award for team manager Darren Shand who does a fabulous job, and for the exceptional coaching team (assistants Steven Hansen and Wayne Smith) who work with me.

“I am extremely fortunate to have a group of guys who are exceptionally good at what they do.”

The IRB awards panel of judges, comprising former internationals Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphal Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustn Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga, Paul Wallace and Eales, watched more than 78 hours of action from 59 matches, awarding points to the three players they thought stood out in each match.

The accolades cap a good year for New Zealand on the awards front with Julian Savea winning the IRB junior player of the year in June and Carla Hohepa named IRB women’s personality of the year in September after New Zealand claimed the women’s World Cup title.

The New Zealand winners in the 2010 IRB Awards were:

Player of the Year: Richie McCaw
Team of the Year: New Zealand
Coach of the Year: Graham Henry

Women’s Personality of the Year: Carla Hohepa
Junior Player of the Year: Julian Savea

Previous Winners of IRB Player of the Year Award:
2009 – Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
2008 – Shane Williams (Wales)
2007 – Bryan Habana (South Africa)
2006 – Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
2005 – Daniel Carter (New Zealand)
2004 – Schalk Burger (South Africa)
2003 – Jonny Wilkinson (England)
2002 – Fabien Galthié (France)
2001 – Keith Wood (Ireland)

Previous Winners of IRB Team of the Year Award:
2009 – South Africa
2008 – New Zealand
2007 – South Africa
2006 – New Zealand
2005 – New Zealand
2004 – South Africa
2003 – England
2002 – France
2001 – Australia

Previous Winners of IRB Coach of the Year Award:
2009 – Declan Kidney (Ireland)
2008 – Graham Henry (New Zealand)
2007 – Jake White (South Africa)
2006 – Graham Henry (New Zealand)
2005 – Graham Henry (New Zealand)
2004 – Jake White (South Africa)
2003 – Clive Woodward (England)
2002 – Bernard Laporte (France)

 

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