All Blacks great ‘concerned’ by fly-half depth after talented playmaker ‘messed around’ by Ian Foster

Colin Newboult
All Blacks fly-half options: Beauden Barrett, Damian McKenzie and Stephen Perofeta.

All Blacks fly-half options: Beauden Barrett, Damian McKenzie and Stephen Perofeta.

Ex-All Blacks playmaker Justin Marshall says that Scott Robertson should be worried by two specific areas going into the July series with England and Fiji.

The former Crusaders head coach is set to take charge of his first New Zealand game in three months’ time when they face the Red Rose in Dunedin.

Robertson took over from Ian Foster following the Rugby World Cup and will look to rebuild the side in 2024.

Changing of the guard

The end of a global tournament usually brings about retirements and departures, and 2023 was no different with the likes of Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga, Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock moving on to pastures new.

Mo’unga is perhaps the most worrying loss, according to Marshall, with the All Blacks lacking experience in that key decision-making role.

Although Beauden Barrett is returning from Japan, the favourite for the position, Damian McKenzie, is not a proven Test performer at fly-half.

Behind them there is Stephen Perofeta, who has only earned three caps, and potentially the Hurricanes’ Brett Cameron after his impressive Super Rugby Pacific start.

However, the former scrum-half believes that there are fewer options available to Robertson than the All Blacks boss would ordinarily like.

“I don’t feel that we’ve got massive depth, to a degree, in our fly-half area,” he told Newstalk ZB.

“10 is a jersey that has been dominated, to a degree, in the last decade by Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga. There’s been little intros and opportunities for the likes of Damian McKenzie but they’ve been few and far between. Stephen Perofeta was messed around by Ian Foster.

“Below those two, there’s been no real progress.”

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Marshall also insists that it is not just fly-half where Robertson should be anxious, with outside centre continuing to be an issue for a New Zealand head coach.

Foster struggled to find an answer but eventually settled on Rieko Ioane, who became a key cog in the backline before and during the 2023 World Cup.

“Another area that does concern me, to a degree, is centre. We’ve had to switch a winger, a world-class winger, probably one of the fastest in the world, into centre because we never replaced Conrad Smith,” he added.

“Jack Goodhue with his injury problems was seen as being possibly that replacement. But, to that end, there’s been nobody else that’s come through and been absolutely devastating.

“I thought possibly Leicester Fainga’anuku could have been that answer, but obviously he’s moved on too.

“Those two positions would be the two I’d be most concerned about, 10 and 13, that we don’t have enough depth in those jerseys; not that we don’t have quality players that under Scott Robertson could come in and realize their true potential internationally.”

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