All Blacks greats pick their five key players New Zealand Rugby must tie down long-term including the ‘critical’ playmaker

Colin Newboult
Lock Scott Barrett and playmaker Damian McKenzie for the All Blacks.

Lock Scott Barrett and playmaker Damian McKenzie for the All Blacks.

Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson have put together their shopping lists for New Zealand Rugby (NZR) ahead of the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

The likes of Beauden Barrett and Will Jordan are among those to commit until the conclusion of the next global tournament, with Jordie Barrett signing until the end of 2028.

However, there are plenty of individuals who have not been secured and the All Blacks legends have noted down the players NZR should be desperate to keep.

Marshall’s five

Jordan is among Marshall’s five, with the former scrum-half looking beyond the World Cup, while Cam Roigard, Mark Telea, Scott Barrett and Tamaiti Williams were also on there.

“Ultimately, I looked at it and thought, ‘how am I going to answer this question?’ I want the All Blacks winning every Test match, not just World Cups, every single one and I’m very, very focused on that,” he told The Breakdown.

“However, these are the players that I thought if we had signed at the next Rugby World Cup then it will go a long way to us winning it.

“Will Jordan is world-class, Mark Telea is still in amazing form. He will be slightly in the 30s (in 2027).

“Tamaiti Williams is crucial to the stocks and the future, the way he plays the game, and Scott Barrett more than likely will be the captain.

“I would be really happy if New Zealand Rugby were to sign those guys up.”

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Wilson agreed on Scott Barrett, who has become a key component of the All Blacks pack, but his opinion differed elsewhere.

In-form Hurricanes

He disagreed on Telea due to the depth in the All Blacks’ wing stocks and instead rewarded the Hurricanes’ form in Super Rugby Pacific.

There were three from the Wellington-based outfit, including two in their early 20s – Peter Lakai and Ruben Love – while the final player was Damian McKenzie.

Wilson believes that keeping hold of McKenzie, who is favourite to take the fly-half jersey following the departure of Richie Mo’unga, is vital.

“Scott Barrett is one of the five I’ve picked because I think he’s critical. It’s one of the positions that I thought would be really, really hard to replace if you didn’t have that going forward,” he said.

“I think Damian McKenzie is critical. Yes, we’ve got Beauden Barrett coming back but he’s getting on in years.

“I think tighthead prop is critical, Tyrel Lomax has been outstanding. He’s been a rock, he’s become a world-class player.

“In the loose forwards, I just really like the way Peter Lakai has started this Super Rugby season. He’s 21 years old, he’s got a long and big future in front of him, and time to develop.

“I didn’t have Mark Telea. Mark Telea is 28, wingers generally for the All Blacks don’t (stay around). We’ve got plenty of guys who play in the outside backs.

“If we talk about Caleb Clarke, Sevu Reece, Emoni Narawa and Etene Nanai-Seturo, we’ve got plenty of guys who can play on the wing.”

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