Saturday, August 29, 2009

Centre of Attention

What to do with the #13 jersey for the All Blacks? Its been a problem for some years on and off - flirtations with fullbacks over the years (Muliaina and Cullen) and now with the 2 players expected to battle for the position in 2009 are out for the business end of the Tri Nations (Smith/Kahui).

There are some interesting theories out there:

  • Promote Nonu to centre and push Carter to 2nd V outside Donald - actually this is the one I fear the selectors will opt for - but its fatally flawed as we must have Carter at 1st V
  • With McAlister also out the smart choice for me is to bring Nonu back at 2nd V outside Carter and use the successful formula of 2008 - Nonu was at his best outside Carter in 2008 and was possibly the only NZer not to benefit from Carter's selection (as he was dropped)
  • That then leaves the centre berth - Toeva has had a couple of goes there without impressing across the whole game - he remains my choice for consistency of selection and frankly the guy still possesses a raw talent that is worth persevering with - he has had some wonderful moments alongside the woeful ones
  • There isn't anyone in the Air NZ Cup who is showing they are ready. If it comes down to a selection from outside the squad then I would go for Tuitivaki
  • The option of pulling Muliaina back to centre making room for Corey Jane is a possibility, but for me, you've still got to be working a theory for the future and that one is plainly stopgap at best - plus Muliaina's best tests have always been at fullback
  • I could be persuaded to push Nonu out to centre and bring Toeva into 2nd V - that way the kicking option is brought into the mix, but it seems to me to bring a double uncertainty into the mix - how will Toeva go generally? how will Nonu go at centre?

WHat may be telling are the Air NZ Cup games this weekend - Toeva is at Centre for Auckland and Nonu is at Centre for Wellington. Maybe Jamie is listening to the 3 wise men this week?


Rhett said...

I don't like any of the options. I know that Toeva is to you as Reuben Thorne was to John Mitchell, but I don't thing he's ever done enough. Too easily flustered.

Even though it is a stopgap, I'd go with Mils at centre, and Jane at fullback. Simply because Mils is classy and Jane has proved himself at this level. What you lose by playing Mils out of position, you'd gain by playing the impressive Jane in his preferred position.

And as far as planning for the future goes, I think with Smith and Kahui we have two superb players who will hopefull still be fit and ready at the next world cup. It's just chance that they should both be out now.

By the next world cup Aaron Cruden will be ready and we wouldn't think too much of moving Carter to Second Five to accomodate him if we did lose centres to injury in any case.

BJ said...

It's so much picking from the least detrimental alternatives rather than picking from any really good options. The Mils solution at least gets the classiest players on the field even if one is out of position?

Richard Loe said...

I'd play Isaia Toeava there. He's not the be-all and end-all but he'll be sound enough and he's got a bit of a kicking game if they need it outside Dan Carter.

There's no sense moving Mils Muliaina to centre and playing Cory Jane at fullback. Mils is playing well there and I seem to remember John Mitchell and Robbie Deans shifting Mils to centre and getting crucified for it.
There's a case for playing Carter and Stephen Donald together and Nonu at centre, but I don't think so.

Candidates like Anthony Tuitavake and Wellington's Robert Fruean don't look ready for it. Tuitavake has been playing mostly on the wing, and has a groin injury. While a lot of good things are being said about Fruean, he didn't make the Wellington starting team last night against Canterbury.

Frank Bunce said...

I haven't really been a fan of Stephen Donald as a first-five but I believe he has the makings of a second-five and I think he would operate better off Carter's shoulder. He's a good runner, he's brave he doesn't have the x-factor that maybe McAlister, Carter or Ma'a Nonu have but he is really steady, he has a good kicking game and distributes well. He has everything that you need. I would move Nonu to centre just to be safer and make as few changes as you have to. It would be hard to go into a game of this magnitude with three or four changes or too many new players.

BJ said...

Richard, we agree on the least harmful option. It's not just my (perhaps misplaced) belief that Toeva can play at this level, but that it keeps the rest of the team pattern in place. The backline has been all over the place this year in the midfield, so why mess with the back 3 in order to fix a midfield prblem? At the same time, I have to say what does a prop really know about backline play?

Frank, I am less worried about your retention of Donald at 2nd V than I am at the possibility of Donald moving back to 1st V. And to be fair Nonu did finish the test v Aussie at centre. But if it comes down to inserting a variable Toeva at centre with an unproven Donald at 2nd V, I think I'd prefer to leave Nonu in his best postion and risk Toeva. Are you available this weekend Frank, as none of the options really appeal?

John Hart said...

I think Mils Muliaina should fill in for Conrad Smith at centre, allowing the coaches to get a better look at Corey Jane.

BJ said...

Not sure why a first five tried at wing and fullback for his province has been brought into the AB squad as cover for the midfield?

Reports out of AB training suggest Donald could be back at first five with Carter at 2nd...come quickly Lord Jesus...

BJ said...

So Donald will run at second five and Nonu at centre. Ultimately, I don't like the fact that this involves 2 positional changes for one position. But with Toeva carrying an injury along with Ellison, I prefer it to the alternatives ie moving Carter to 2nd or moving Mils from fullback (also involving 2 positional changes). They have just run out of squad players with experience at that level unless they were to go outside the squad and bring in Tuitavake at centre for example (who has AB experience).

No real options and what an unreal injury queue in the midfield - Kahui, Smith, McAllister, Ellison, Toeva...

I'd like to think Donald can't do much harm at 2nd V - he is a direct runner and a strong tackler. But the channel between 2nd V and centre worries me on defence. Time will tell.