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Are the All Blacks trying to have their cake and eat it in their back row?

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Roar Guru
20th November, 2020
3878 Reads

Ardie Savea and Sam Cane are both predominantly sevens.

Both are dynamic openside flankers. However, they are the two best forwards the All Blacks have. Thus, it is no surprise that they want them in their back row. They have a six-seven-eight of Shannon Frizell, Sam Cane and Ardie Savea respectively.

However, if they want to maintain the presence of two of their best forwards, they need to play it in such a way.

Why is Ardie Savea at eight? He is an explosive ball-carrier, and six is a thankless job where you have to be very hardworking and smash out rucks.

However, if you want a maximised back row with Savea at eight, you will want a dynamic six in Lachlan Boshier with the skills, pace and power. However, they never picked Boshier and they never got that six option.

What is wrong with Ardie Savea at eight? Hoskins Sotutu is the new Kieran Read. Ball skills, passing and raw physicality are so characteristic of him.


He has good hands to get the ball away in the tackle and can also do an unlocking pass that backs are often needed to do. He has excellent defence and he is a better attacking eight than Savea through his ball skills.

While Savea has the agility and sidestep honed by playing sevens, Sotutu is a more complete attacker.

They took away a wonderful attacking threat at eight. Also, here is another theory that could be used: Savea at six, Cane to seven, and Sotutu to eight.

Sam Cane of the All Blacks looks on

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

However, this may not work as the six has to do lot of dirty work, carrying the ball in when there is not a chance of going forward, smashing out rucks, and slowing the ball down even if you cannot make the turnover.

The All Blacks are still trying to entertain, not win.

It is reported that Savea is 95 kilos, but was 103 kilos at the point of the World Cup quarter-final with Ireland. I do not think he has dropped. While he is certainly a little below average in size, he has the work rate, fitness, and drive to do the job of a six.

The question is will the All Blacks be willing to waste him at six?


I think not. But if they do use this, it could be a solution.

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Or another combo they could employ is making a tough choice between Sam Cane and Savea, taking out one of their two best forwards.

They can have a specialist six. Akira Ioane, Shannon Frizell and Cullen Grace are extremely viable options.


Either way, what the All Blacks have right now is not working as it hinders their phenomenal attacking eight Sotutu for being on the field.

A core truth of success is that you need the right people, not the best people.

Can the All Blacks solve this selection dilemma?