Razor Watch: Rising star ‘in the mix’ for All Blacks call-up as selection picture begins to take shape

Dylan Coetzee
Split with Dalton Papali'i, Scott Robertson and Quinn Tupaea.

Split with Dalton Papali'i, Scott Robertson and Quinn Tupaea.

The Super Rugby Pacific is starting to reach the final few rounds of the regular season meaning the selection picture for the national sides is beginning to take shape.

We take a closer look with our weekly Razor watch at who Scott Robertson will be considering for the All Blacks based on form in the competition.

The prodigy produces again

Rising star Peter Lakai started off the bench against Moana Pasifika and made an immediate impact scoring a charge down try minutes after taking to the field.

Lakai’s work rate coupled with game awareness and skill set make him a valuable player in yellow. His ability to influence matches is outstanding and surely he will be in the mix for an All Blacks call-up in the near future.

Classy Chiefs

As always Damian McKenzie ran the show underlining his status as the best 10 based in New Zealand. He may not be the best 10 overall in Robertson’s eyes, with the coach trying to lure Richie Mo’unga back, but it must be time to give DMac the run he deserves. His half-back partner, Cortez Ratima, was brilliant again and could be an option given the injury woes at nine.

The centre pairing of Anton Lienert-Brown and Quinn Tupaea was red-hot again and underlined the depth New Zealand has in the midfield. Both players are coming into good enough form to step back into Test rugby.

In the pack, Tupou Vaa’i’s maturity as a quality second-row continues and no doubt he will be in the squad. Whether Robertson wants more than that remains to be seen. The same can be said for Samisoni Taukei’aho in the hooker space after yet another solid outing. The pair are safe bets if the All Blacks opt for it. Number eight and leader Luke Jacobson also showed his class again but has massive competition in the back-row.

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Beautiful Blues

Over the last couple of rounds, there has been a consistent upturn in Caleb Clarke’s form with the powerhouse scoring and assisting a try this weekend. His strength and pace offer something different to the free-running wings the All Blacks have at their disposal, making him a shoo-in for another call-up.

Dalton Papali’i is looking outstanding at the moment and could be poised to step up into a start role depending on what Robertson decides to do with the number eight role. The coach could be tempted to play the in-form Hoskins Sotutu there and move Ardie Savea to seven, in which case Papali’i would be left out. That remains to be seen but the flank will be desperate to avoid being a victim of depth in the back-row.

Another player who has been a victim of just that in the past is Akira Ioane. The powerful flank may have a chance to sneak into the All Blacks side after Shannon Frizzell’s departure leaves the six jersey relatively open. Ioane will have to back it up with big play-off performances to be considered.

Finally, one for the big men, and in particular Ofa Tu’ungafasi, who was brilliant in Blue last time out. He will be hoping to add to his All Blacks caps this time round and presents himself as a safe option for the new coach to select.

READ MORE: ‘I’m not a broken man’ – Sam Cane’s message to Scott Robertson as retiring flanker retains All Blacks ‘drive’