Ian Foster has named his 33-man All Blacks squad for the Rugby World Cup in France, and we have picked out our winners and losers from the selection.
Foster has surprisingly gone with 18 forwards and 15 backs, with most coaches likely to go with 19 forwards instead.
Sam Cane will captain the side in his third Rugby World Cup and features in an experienced squad with a combined Test cap tally of 1493, the most experienced All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup squad ever.
Here are our winners and losers from the experienced squad named.
17 Rugby World Cup debutants
Being named in your country’s Rugby World Cup squad is a special moment for any player, but for these 17 players, it is unique as they are set to make their World Cup debut.
Forwards Ethan de Groot, Luke Jacobson, Tyrel Lomax, Fletcher Newell, Dalton Papali’i, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Tupou Vaa’i, Tamaiti Williams, and backs Finlay Christie, Caleb Clarke, Leicester Fainga’anuku, David Havili, Will Jordan, Damian McKenzie, Emoni Narawa, Cam Roigard and Mark Telea all make a World Cup squad for the very first time.
All Blacks wingers
The All Blacks are notorious for producing fantastic outside backs, making the selection for the World Cup incredibly difficult.
This year the lucky five are Clarke, Fainga’anuku, Jordan, Narawa and Telea.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) July 29, 2023
The increase in squad size from 31 in 2019 to 33 in 2023 was set to allow coaches to add extra cover in the pack, but Foster has instead opted to include another backline player.
This has undoubtedly helped the five wingers crack the final squad, particularly the trio of Fainga’anuku, Narawa and Telea, who all have less than 10 caps.
It is also a boost for Clarke, who is yet to start a Test match on the wing for the All Blacks this year but has had cameos off the bench.
Much like the outside backs, the competition at scrum-half for the All Blacks is rife, with several players vying to be Aaron Smith’s deputy.
Despite the intense competition, 22-year-old Roigard has forced his way into the final 33 despite only making his Test debut against Australia in Bledisloe I.
After starring in Super Rugby Pacific in the absence of TJ Perenara, Roigard received a call-up to the squad and has earned the selectors’ backing for the World Cup.
It’s a massive show of confidence from the coaching staff – considering the experienced options they had – for a player who has a bright future in an All Black jersey.
While this is the most experienced All Blacks squad named for a Rugby World Cup, there is space for a young buck earning his stripes.
Williams had an excellent Super Rugby season with the Crusaders and earned his maiden call-up. He impressed in his first two Test matches, and his ability to play on both sides of the scrum is a huge boost for the squad, not only on the pitch but in training too.
The 22-year-old is the heaviest player to play for the All Blacks and expect him to make a big splash at the tournament.
Timing is everything, and Havili timed his return from injury to perfection.
While he did not feature for the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship and the second Bledisloe Cup match, he did make his return for Tasman in the NPC.
Havili has been a mainstay in Foster’s squad, and his ability to slot at full-back and in the centres is a huge asset for the side.
The back-rower had his Rugby World Cup dream dashed through injury four years ago.
However, he was not to be denied in 2023, having forced his way back into the selection frame and sealed his place in the final 33.
It’s just reward for the back-rower who bounced back from the heartbreak four years ago superbly, and despite the disappointment of missing the All Blacks squad on multiple occasions, he has persisted in securing his place.
Rewind to 12 months ago, and we may not have expected Foster to be the man selecting the Rugby World Cup squad.
The All Blacks head coach was under immense pressure from New Zealand Rugby and the public, but how quickly things have changed.
The changes in the backroom staff have done the trick in turning their fortunes around, but credit where it is due to Foster as he has led the charge in turning things around.
12 months ago, New Zealand were written off, and this squad looks like one that will really challenge for the title.
There was a hope that Ethan Blackadder would time his return from injury like Havili did, but it was not to be.
The talented back-rower sustained a setback ahead on his return for Canterbury, which has ultimately cost him a World Cup – gutting for the talented forward.
Foster’s decision to opt for 15 backs meant that one forward would always be unlucky to miss out, and it looks like Samipeni Finau was that forward.
A standout for the Chiefs in their excellent season, Finau impressed on his first start for the All Blacks, but unfortunately, he was not able to convince the selectors enough.
There were hopes that the loosehead prop Joe Moody would also recover in time to feature at the Rugby World Cup, but it was not to be.
The Crusaders man is world-class when fully fit and was on track to feature in his third Rugby World Cup.
It’s always harsh when a player’s World Cup involvement is dashed by injury, and Moody is joined on the sidelines by George Bower and Sevu Reece, who also miss out.
Jordie Barrett and Rieko Ioane have seemingly nailed down the starting XV positions meaning there were always going to be some disappointment centres when the squad was named.
Havili and Anton Lienert-Brown have cracked the nod to challenge Barrett and Ioane for starting positions.
However, there are a plethora of centres missing out, including Braydon Ennor and Dallas McLeod. The Crusaders pair were in the All Blacks squad throughout the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup Tests but could not secure their World Cup spots.
Meanwhile, Jack Goodhue was overlooked despite his strong form for the Crusaders in the latter stages of the tournament.
Finally, Quinn Tupeau did make his return from injury in time, but having been sidelined since his injury against Australia last year, his selection would have been a big gamble.
The Chiefs star pressed for a selection all year through his form in Super Rugby and earned his Test debut in Bledisloe II.
The talented outside back shone on his Test debut and did all he could to force the selectors’ hands, but in the end, it was not enough.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) June 24, 2023
As mentioned earlier, the competition for the scrum-half positions has been rife and three top players all missed the squad.
Folau Fakatava was tipped as the young nine to go to the tournament, but he missed out, while experienced half-backs TJ Perenara and Brad Weber are also incredibly unlikely to miss the final 33.