Razor Watch: A key All Black returns from injury as fresh prospects put their hand up for selection

Dylan Coetzee
Split with Crusaders duo Scott Barrett and David Havili, Chief Emoni Narawa and Hurricane Xavier Numia.

Split with Crusaders duo Scott Barrett and David Havili, Chief Emoni Narawa and Hurricane Xavier Numia.

Round 10 of Super Rugby Pacific is in the books and what a weekend it was loaded with drama, electric running and some fascinating results.

It also means that Razor Watch is back where we discuss selection prospects and topics that All Black head coach Scott Robertson (aka Razor) could be considering after the weekend’s action.

Scott Barrett return

As if like clockwork, the Crusaders’ best performance of the season by miles came as their experienced skipper returned from injury. Barrett’s presence offered a lot of calm and visibly instilled confidence in the players around him, resulting in a dominant outing from the forward pack.

Having been Robertson’s skipper during the coach’s time at the helm of the Crusaders, Barrett has a real chance of leading the All Blacks under Razor and even if he does not get the armband he will be at the heart of the pack. A returning performance like that will have the New Zealand boss grinning.

Crusaders duo

While Barrett’s influence was key it was only telling because of some seriously hard working players in the famous red jersey. Number eight Christian Lio-Wilie was particularly good on attack and bagged a brace of tries. The back-row is never shy of work but will need to consistently perform like this to rattle the pecking order in his position.

If the All Blacks are looking to bulk up their midfield and go with heavier options then Levi Aumua looks a great prospect. The centre ran hard all game, beating six defenders, and looks to be in fine form. Of course, the Rugby World Cup pairing of Jordie Barrett and Rieko Ioane will likely continue in the black jersey but Robertson has options should he decide to make some tweaks.

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Emoni Narawa (Chiefs)

It was a heartbreaking moment when the wing was ruled out of the World Cup after his try-scoring debut for the All Blacks against Argentina. Narawa looked dangerous and could have easily made a strong impact for his country. That part has not changed through his injury as the speedster was on fire for the Chiefs.

Narawa bagged two well-taken tries against the Waratahs as he showcased that prolific form he had before his injury. Robertson will be delighted to have the wing back but Narawa will be wise to the amount of depth there is at wing.

Xavier Numia (Hurricanes)

One of two players who feature again in this week’s Razor Watch thanks to a rare double for the front-row who continues to impress.

His try-scoring exploits were just the cherry on top of a fine outing where he performed well in the set-piece and notched up an impressive tackle count. Numia is looking more and more Test-ready every time he runs out. It will be interesting to see if Robertson begins integrating the star into the All Blacks fold.

Hoskins Sotutu (Blues)

The other player doubling up in Razor Watch is the talented Blues number eight who is possibly the hottest player in Super Rugby Pacific right now. Not only did Sotutu score his ninth try of the season but he also assisted another and gained 128 metres with ball in hand while making 10 tackles.

Those numbers are outrageous and they are constantly being thrown out by the star. Sotutu’s form is simply too good to ignore and the prospect of having him and Ardie Savea in the same loose trio for the All Blacks is daunting.

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Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues)

The resurgence of the veteran second-row comes at a brilliant time for Robertson’s All Blacks with the legendary duo of Brodie Rettalick and Sam Whitelock out of the picture, leaving the middle Barrett and promising youngers Tupou Vaa’i and Josh Lord to fill the void.

Tuipulotu not only adds a massive frame to the mix but a wealth of experience and astute leadership which could provide huge value in the squad set-up for the All Blacks. His form is certainly good enough to be in the mix to start with a try and 15 tackles in his last game where he carried relentlessly for the Auckland side.

Other notable performers

Crusaders star Sevu Reece was once again on the scoresheet, coming off his wing to find another try that keeps up his outrageous strike rate. Another positive for the Christchurch men was the return of multi-faceted star David Havili from injury. For the Blues, the slippery Mark Tele’a did what he always does – consistently beat defenders and trouble the gainline.

Jordie Barrett was solid again in the centres, making a boatload of tackles and scoring a try as he continues to mature as a second five-eighth while Damian McKenzie keeps his status as the leading fly-half in the country after he pulled the strings yet again for the Chiefs. DMac’s teammate Wallace Sititi showed off his tremendous power again and could be a name to remember as a possible All Black in years to come.

Finally, Chiefs full-back Shaun Stevenson looked good before getting injured whilst scoring his try. The injury does appear to be short/medium-term which means he could still be in the running for selection in the mid-year Tests.

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