The in-form star that Sir John Kirwan believes will solve the All Blacks’ lack of ‘X-factor’

Colin Newboult
Sir John Kirwan alongside Blues and All Blacks number eight Hoskins Sotutu.

Sir John Kirwan alongside Blues and All Blacks number eight Hoskins Sotutu.

Sir John Kirwan insists that Hoskins Sotutu deserves another All Blacks chance this year and could prove to be a game-changer for Scott Robertson’s men.

The Blues star has been in stunning form in 2024, helping Vern Cotter’s side to top the Super Rugby Pacific standings.

They impressively defeated their closest rivals the Hurricanes 31-27 last weekend to usurp the Wellington-based outfit in the table.

Sotutu has been a key part of their excellent campaign so far and, on the basis of form, is a certainty to be named in Robertson’s squad for the mid-year Tests.

Last New Zealand appearance

The 25-year-old missed out on the Rugby World Cup squad and has not featured for the All Blacks since the 2022 November internationals.

Despite his considerable talent, the back-row has only earned 14 caps for the national team since making his debut in 2020.

Robertson’s side take on England and Fiji in July, and Kirwan believes that Sotutu has earned his shot off the bench.

“Against England, who do you want coming on late? I’ve always said I loved when Damian (McKenzie) was coming on late for us because defences were tired,” he said on The Breakdown.

“Let’s say Ardie (Savea) starts, but who do you want coming on late? Do you want someone like Hoskins, who can really break a game open? I would rather have someone like that coming on, who has that sort of skill set.”

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Kirwan also believes that Sotutu provides a unique option for New Zealand at the moment, insisting that most other players don’t possess the same qualities as the Blues number eight.

“For me, he has definitely got to be in the mix because he brings you that X-factor. We haven’t had that X-factor,” he said.

“We’ve got it in Ardie but who else has it? Somebody that can kick the ball, somebody that can off-load behind the tackle.

“There are a lot of great loose forwards but I don’t think they’ve got his skill set. What Hoskins has started doing is getting off the deck, making his tackles and working hard.”

Moving Ardie Savea

New Zealand centurion Mils Muliaina agreed with Kirwan’s view and wondered whether Robertson might consider shifting Savea to flanker to accommodate Sotutu.

The 30-year-old was named men’s World Rugby Player of the Year in 2023 after starring for the All Blacks at number eight, but much of his career has been spent at openside.

“I think his skill set might throw a spanner in the works for the All Blacks in terms of the loose trio,” Muliaina said. “Does he start at eight and Ardie move around?

“I think his skill set is a little bit different and might lead to the All Blacks coaches saying, ‘hang on, let’s give this guy a shot’.”

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