With less than eight weeks to go until the first game of the All Blacks vs British and Irish Lions tour we take a look at which New Zealand backs have stood out the most in the 10 rounds of Super Rugby we’ve had so far. This squad is not meant to represent the likely selected side, it is based of purely off the Super Rugby form of these players.
15. Damian Mckenzie
At just 22 its no secret Mckenzie has the potential to do great things in the future for the AB jersey. But in my opinion, he’s ready now. Backing up last years stellar campaign, Mckenzie has been phenomenal for the Chiefs through the opening 10 rounds, leading the competition in carries (136), defenders beaten (41) and metres (903) as well as being top 3 in offloads (17) and clean breaks (17). With Israel Dagg having already missed 7 weeks with a knee injury and Ben Smith staying at home for the highlanders 2 game tour in South Africa with an ankle complaint there is no doubt that Mckenzie is the current inform Fullback for New Zealand
14. George Bridge
Having only played eight Super Rugby games before this year, Bridge has truly had a break out season, already doubling his matches played to sixteen. On top of that he’s come up with 8 tries already this season and looks comfortable beyond his age (22) on the wing for the Crusaders. He appears in the top 10 2017 leaders for clean breaks (16), defenders beaten (34), metres (631) and tries (8). He easily surpasses last year’s All Black mainstay wingers Waisake Naholo and Julian Savea in almost every statistical category and is easily the most inform New Zealand winger in Super Rugby at the moment.
13. Ngani Laumape
What a season this guy is having. He seems to add phenomenal tries to his highlight reel on a weekly basis. Second in tries scored (9) only to his fellow centres partner, Vince Aso (10) and it doesn’t look like he will be slowing down any time soon. An All Black call up seems to be a very serious possibility. On top of his terrific try scoring record, he leads the competition in clean breaks (20) and is top 10 for defenders beaten (28). It will be interesting to see if Steve Hansen will be tempted to start the Hurricanes Centres pairing this tour, although displacing Malakai Fekitoa and Ryan Crotty will still be a tough job, it may be that someone like Anton Leinert-Brown may find it hard to retain a spot in the side that seemed fairly comfortable last year after the emergence of this power house pair.
12. Vince Aso
The 22 year old has had a phenomenal start to the 2017 Super Rugby season, scoring a competition leading 10 tries in just 8 games. His emerging chemistry with his fellow centre Ngani Laumape has spearheaded this fearsome Hurricanes attack and put a very serious question forward. Should Steve Hansen consider starting the pair against the lions? Regardless the ridiculously large pool off young New Zealand talent continues to build and develop fantastically and Vince Aso is a final example.
11. James Lowe
This is possibly one of the more controversial selections in this team. With James Lowe having already announced he’s signed a 3 year deal with Irish club Leinster and will be departing New Zealand rugby after this year, an All Black call up is all but impossible. Having battled rheumatoid arthritis for the majority of his young life, the fact Lowe has managed to perform at the level he has is phenomenal, and this season he has been superb, finding himself in the top 10 for clean breaks (16) and tries (5). There were certainly a number of high quality players I almost gave this spot to (honourable mentions to Matt Duffie and Patrick Osborne) but Lowe gets the nod.
10. Beauden Barrett
One of the best players in the world has continued where he left off last season, creating tries at will (10 try assists) for the Hurricanes. While there has been some concern regarding his discipline after he was shown 3 yellows in as many weeks, culminating in a red card in the 3rd game, it will likely be a small blemish on a season that has already provided to be very fruitful for the 26 year old.
9. Augustine Pulu
The Blues half back has had a very lucrative start to the season, scoring both, tries (4) himself, as well as turning provider and coming up with some assists (4) for his teammates. He’s racked up an impressive 577 passes while running for 355 metres on 81 carries. It has to be said the Blues are certainly a better team than their 5th place in the New Zealand conference would suggest, and Pulu has been a big part of that.
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