Seven debutants expected as Razor faces Crusaders conundrum by StuffsEarth

Estimated read time 19 min read

Scott Robertson names his first All Black side on Monday evening, with the whole thing feeling like a fresh new era.

For a start, the All Blacks have waited until after the Super Rugby final to make their announcement for once, meaning that they haven’t cannibalised the headlines and narrative. That’s not the case for Joe Schmidt, who will name his Wallabies squad on Friday after no Australian side progressed to the final.

But while the Blues and Chiefs are getting their airtime this weekend in anticipation of a sold-out final at Eden Park, that doesn’t mean we can’t get the crystal ball out and make a prediction on who Robertson will be naming for an intriguing two test series with England.

The issue right now though is just how banged up some of these players are, plus the fact that there’s big depth in some areas (midfield, loose forward) and not much in others (lock, first-five).

How closely he leans on the Crusaders, who he led to seven straight Super Rugby before stepping away ahead of this year, will be fascinating too.

Here’s a look at what the make up of the 32-man squad will be:

Hookers: Codie Taylor, Asafo Aumua, Samisoni Taukei’aho/George Bell

Despite Taylor missing most of the season, his return to the lacklustre Crusaders still showcased just how good he is by almost salvaging their season singlehandedly.

He’s also come off an actual proper break mandated in his contract, meanwhile behind him Asafo Aumua’s excellent form can’t be ignored either.

There is space for a new cap to be eased in given that Samisoni Taukei’aho is injured for now, the severity unknown.

Codie Taylor missed the vast majority of Super Rugby but returned on the eve of the finals series and July Tests. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Props: Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Tamaiti Williams, Fletcher Newell

Spare a thought for Xavier Numia, who looked to be an odds-on call up but got injured in the Hurricanes’ quarter-final win over the Highlanders.

The propping department should look pretty familiar, with de Groot and Lomax remaining the first choice pairing.

Newell’s advantage is that the Crusaders’ scrum really turned it on when it counted in terms of showcasing his ability.

Locks: Scott Barrett, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa’i, Sam Darry

Here’s where it gets interesting because this is the area where the All Blacks have lost a massive amount of experience.

Scott Barrett is expected to be named captain, Tuipulotu looks to have made an incredible recovery from a knee injury, and Vaa’i has been in great form for the Chiefs.

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Scott Barrett (2nd left) is expected to be named Scott Robertson’s All Blacks captain. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Behind them though, there’s not much experience even at Super Rugby level, hence why someone like beanpole Darry will probably be holding tackle bags for a while before he gets a run.

Loose forwards: Ardie Savea, Dalton Papali’i, Hoskins Sotutu, Peter Lakai, Brayden Iose, Ethan Blackadder

Meanwhile, the depth in the loosies is about that of an Olympic diving pool.

Some serious talent will miss out here, honestly you could make a decent case for not even including Savea given that he’s not played in months and the rest of the players are in such good form.

The Hurricanes duo of Lakai and Iose are just too good to ignore, while Blackadder can cover lock as long as he can stay fit.

Halfbacks: TJ Perenara, Finlay Christie, Cortez Ratima

Cam Roigard’s injury ironically means Perenara will be back in black, himself returning from a year and a half out after busting his knee.

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TJ Perenara’s form and an injury to Cam Roigard will likely see the veteran halfback return to the All Blacks. (Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Christie is a divisive figure and has been out for much of the Blues’s season, while Ratima has had enough Super Rugby experience to step up. Aaron Smith leaves a long shadow, it has to be said.

First five eighths: Damian McKenzie, Beauden Barrett

Robertson has signalled DMac is his first choice 10, while Beauden Barrett likely to line up at fullback.

Again, the inside backs are much like the locks, a lot of experience gone but at least Barrett is still there in case things go pear-shaped.

Midfield: Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Billy Proctor

Jordie Barrett and Ioane will be retaining their places, while Lienert-Brown’s form for the Chiefs is up there with the best of his career.

Billy Proctor should follow in his brother’s footsteps and hopefully go better than just the one test match; however, this will be a very hard top combination to crack into. So hard in fact that Quinn Tupaea, who has been used as a finisher by Clayton McMillan, might not make the squad.

Ruben Love of the Hurricanes reacts against the Chiefs
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Ruben Love was in excellent form for the Hurricanes in 2024. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

Outside backs: Ruben Love, Mark Tele’a, Sevu Reece, Emoni Narawa, Etene Nanai-Seturo

Reece somehow scored 12 tries for the Crusaders this season despite barely touching the ball, while Tele’a and Narawa picked up where they left off last year with prolific seasons as well.

Love will likely sit behind Beauden Barrett to start his All Black career. Nanai-Seturo’s recent versatility at fullback has added another string to his bow.

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