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The Dangerous All Black back three

The All Blacks are renowned for their exciting outside backs and in the back three their arsenal has some fierce weapons.

 

The massive blow for New Zealand has been the injury to Cory Jane, who has had a fantastic season for the Hurricanes and would have been virtually assured of wearing the All Black No.14 jersey.

 

Another injury blow was to outside centre Richard Kahui, but the versatile back played on the wing during last year's World Cup and could well have been in the No.11 jersey once again this season.

 

With both of last year's first choice wings out of action, the fullback berth looks to be the easiest decision for coach Steve Hansen, with Israel Dagg the most obvious successor to Mils Muliaina. However, Dagg's adaptability means he could feature on the wing and offer an opening to another Kiwi hopeful to fill the No.15 jersey.

 

Hansen has picked wings Julian Savea, Zac Guildford and Hosea Gear in his initial squad and could use any one of them against Ireland, with all three playing left wing for their Super Rugby franchises. Savea has been a revelation for the 'Canes out wide and is strong and powerful, while Gear performs a similar role for the Highlanders, but also has some added experience on his side. Guildford is no doubt a highly skilled player, but off-field actions and terrible lifestyle choices make him a liability and a reckless danger within a team environment.

 

The other contenders are Crusaders flyer Sean Maitland, who is a good finisher, but does seen to lack the cliched x-factor of an international wing. While Chiefs ace Lelia Masaga has the x-factor and is incredible with ball in hand. However, both Will Genia and Bjorn Basson have shown that Masaga turns slowly and is a poor tackler, with his defensive frailties counting against him.

 

The Blues' contender with an outside shot is Rene Ranger, who is a complete Jekyll and Hyde player, capable of winning and losing you a match within the same movement.

 

Highlanders star ben Smith is making a strong claim for inclusion as a wing or fullback, but must also battle with Hurricanes try-scoring machine Andre Taylor for New Zealand selection.

 

Chiefs starlet Tim Nanai-Williams is another talented player, who could have an international future, but he isn't there quite yet.

 

The final man worth a mention is the unlucky Isaia Toeava, who has had an awful string of injuries over the last few years, and if he can stay fit he could still be a major force in an All Blacks jersey in the future.

 

All Blacks back three:

 

Starting:

 

11 Hosea Gear:

A late addition to the squad following his decision to turn down a big money move to Japan, and it's time he won a lengthy run in the team. Gear has been on the fringes of All Black selection for the last few years, and his ability to score tries and create them for others gives him the edge of Savea, who is still young and will have his chance one day.

 

14 Israel Dagg:

The decision to move him to wing is not taken lightly, but in combination with Taylor he could roam about and still get involved in some deadly attacking play from deep. He is too good to leave out of any New Zealand side, and for the time being would be great on the right wing.

 

15 Andre Taylor:

How Taylor has been ignored by Hansen is anybody's guess. The 24-year-old has been outstanding for the Hurricanes and has been head and shoulders above any other fullback in Super Rugby this season.

 

Bench:

 

22 Sonny Bill Williams:

While there was no room for Sonny Bill in the midfield, he has played on the wing for the All Blacks and could cover both positions from the bench. It was a tough decision not to give him the No.12 jersey, and he could make a serious impact late in the match.

 

By Timmy Hancox

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