Big men need big minutes: All Blacks underdone as injuries, rest weeks add up

2019-05-16 05:31:49

ANALYSIS: How do you like your All Blacks by the middle of May? A bit burnt, medium rare or underdone?

If you said the latter there is some good news: with almost half the calendar year finished the All Blacks are as raw as sushi in some areas.

In fact, after this weekend, not a single member of the All Blacks' first choice pack will have played more than half of their total possible minutes in Super Rugby.

Stand-down periods, the All Blacks' 'rest week' requirements, injuries (which the rest weeks didn't prevent) and even the cancellation of the Crusaders v Highlanders match have all eaten into the minutes of the All Blacks' pack.

Brodie Retallick has been the busiest, but with the injured lock set to miss the next two weeks his numbers will fall below that 50 per cent mark.

A disclaimer: the pack we have chosen includes Sam Cane and Liam Squire in the starting XV, in the belief that deep down they are the preferred players in the starting the All Blacks' No 7 and No 6 jerseys.

Of course, Savea might claim that jersey but at the very least Cane will be on the place to Japan.

As for Squire, his omission from last week's Highlanders game and trip to South Africa means he has just two regular season Super Rugby games to get some conditioning into him.

The story is better in the backline but there are still a few concerns.

Sonny Bill Williams, for example, who has been pencilled in for the All Blacks No 12 jersey at this World Cup for the past four years, has played 240 minutes minutes, 27 per cent of his total possible time.

Ben Smith is on 634 minutes, or 66 per cent, but the Highlanders fullback is now injured and could miss the remainder of the regular season.

The overall problem is exacerbated because this year's Rugby Championship only has three games for the All Blacks, with a further Bledisloe Cup test and then a test against Tonga in Hamilton on September 7 to round out the All Blacks' preparation for the Rugby World Cup.

It's not a huge amount of time to get the required work into multiple players across multiple positions and still fine tune the machine.

And if there is one thing in rugby that never changes, it's that there is no substitute for game time.

You think Aaron Smith is fit? Trains hard? Spot on.

But the halfback said a few weeks ago that no matter how much running he puts into the legs it simply doesn't replicate match fitness.

Players need footy, and it needs to be intense.

The All Blacks have been here before.

Perhaps they factored in the likelihood of injuries before the 'rest week' plans were put in place.

Perhaps none of this remotely worries them – they could be roughly where they want to be and on track to peak on November 2, the day of the Rugby World Cup final.

But at some point over the coming months, their big men are going to need get some minutes into their frames to get to the level that wins Rugby World Cups.


* The All Blacks' game time in Super Rugby so far

1. Joe Moody (Crusaders): 450 minutes, 47 per cent of total possible game time

2. Codie Taylor (Crusaders): 316 minutes, 33 per cent of total possible game time

3. Owen Franks (Crusaders): 186 minutes, 19 per cent of total possible game time

4. Brodie Retallick (Chiefs): 506 minutes, 53 per cent of total possible game time

5. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders): 340 minutes, 35 per cent of total possible game time

6. Liam Squire (Highlanders): 0 minutes, 0 per cent of total possible game time

7. Sam Cane (Chiefs): 0 minutes, 0 per cent of total possible game time

8. Kieran Read (Crusaders): 420 minutes, 44 per cent of total possible game time

9. Aaron Smith (Highlanders): 486 minutes, 51 per cent of total possible game time

10. Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes): 700 minutes, 73 per cent of total possible game time

11. Rieko Ioane (Blues):  736 minutes, 84 per cent of total possible game time

12. Sonny Bill Williams (Blues): 240 minutes minutes, 27 per cent of total possible time.

13. Jack Goodhue (Crusaders): 593 minutes, 62 per cent of total possible game time

14. Ben Smith (Highlanders): 634 minutes, or 66 per cent of total possible game time

15. Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes): 800 minutes, 83 per cent of total possible game time

Replacements: Dane Coles (294 minutes, 31 per cent), Nepo Laulala (523 minutes, 54 per cent), Karl Tu'inukuafe (468 minutes, 53 per cent) , Scott Barrett (650 minutes, 68 per cent), Ardie Savea (783 minutes, 81 per cent), TJ Perenara (698 minutes, 73 per cent), Richie Mo'unga (611 minutes, 64 per cent), Anton Lienert-Brown (780 minutes, 81 per cent)

*All stats provided by Opta

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