Rugby: All Blacks forwards labelled 'frail' by South African writer

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 30 Jun 2021, 3:06PM
All Blacks captain Sam Cane is out with a pec injury. Photo / Photosport
All Blacks captain Sam Cane is out with a pec injury. Photo / Photosport

Rugby: All Blacks forwards labelled 'frail' by South African writer

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 30 Jun 2021, 3:06PM

The All Blacks have been labelled a "frail" team with "obvious weaknesses" in South Africa following the announcement of Ian Foster's 36-man squad for the upcoming July tests against Tonga and Fiji.

In an article on South African rugby website keo.co.za headlined "Frail All Black forwards will continue to struggle internationally", rugby scribe Oliver Keohane reckoned the All Blacks will struggle in the Rugby Championship and against other top Northern sides because of a weak forward pack.

"The All Blacks have announced their 36-man squad and new captain for their upcoming Test series against Fiji and Tonga, and the obvious weakness in their forwards is astounding when one compares them to the best of South Africa, Argentina, England and a few of the other Northern Hemisphere sides," Keohane wrote.

"The fact that the All Blacks are lacking in a pack makes little difference to what they will do to the likes of Fiji and Tonga, so this is not to say they will struggle in their June test series. Where they will struggle, will be the Rugby Championship and against the Northern Hemisphere's best."

Keohane would go on to discuss two of the All Blacks' most experienced forwards in Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, who he says wouldn't make his World XV.

"Their captain – and best offering at openside – Sam Cane, is out. Taking over the leading of the team is Sam Whitelock, who with locking partner Brodie Retallick present the All Blacks best pair of forwards out of the 21 selected.

"Whitelock, with 122 tests and 102 test starts has been an outstanding servant of New Zealand rugby over the last decade, immovable for both the All Blacks and the Crusaders. I wouldn't pick him in a World XV over England's Maro Itoje.

"Brodie Retallick, youngest winner ever of the (then IRB) World Rugby Player of the Year award in 2014, has been on a sabbatical for the past year and though he has nothing to prove in terms of his quality, one does not leapfrog the likes of Eben Etzebeth after a year out of high level rugby."

Keohane then turned his attention to the rest of the forwards, claiming both Codie Taylor and Dane Coles are "two very good hookers, but not the best hookers".

The front row didn't fare to well in Keohane's assessments either: "The All Black props don't hold a candle to the front rows of South Africa and Argentina, nor would the result at scrum time be much different, nearly two years on from the World Cup semi-final, if they were to face England's front row again."

The opinionated writer did, however, provide a disclaimer towards the end of his piece.

"I am not saying the All Blacks will get beaten left, right and centre for their lack of quality forwards. Historically, they have always had to make do with a starting eight who could do the job, and very little depth beyond that.

"And they have more than made do, proving to be the best team of the last twenty years in professional rugby.

"What I am saying though, is that this All Blacks side will struggle a lot more than their predecessors because of a basic lack of good forwards."

The Rugby Championship, featuring the All Blacks, Wallabies, Springboks and Argentina, is set to kickoff in August.

The All Blacks take on Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium this Saturday in their first test of the year, while South Africa are preparing for a three-match series against the British and Irish Lions next month.