Surprise Omissions From Stephen Donald's All Blacks Starting XV For RWC


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Jul 30, 2023

Surprise Omissions From Stephen Donald's All Blacks Starting XV For RWC

With this year’s Rugby World Cup just around the corner, former test fly-half

With this year's Rugby World Cup just around the corner, former test fly-half Stephen Donald has picked his All Blacks’ starting side to take on the best of the best in France.

Throughout the Super Rugby Pacific season, there's been a fair bit of debate and speculation surrounding the potential makeup of Ian Foster's squad.

But Rugby World Cup hero Stephen Donald has gone one step further by picking his run-on side – a team that includes no bolters, and he's also left out test regulars Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett.

"We’re 100 days out, and my team won't be the same as the one that's picked, I’m sure of that, from coach Foster," Donald said on SENZ's The Run Home. "But this is the team I would have running out, Game 1, right now.

"Joe Moody will have recovered, Samisoni (Taukei’aho) will be two, Tyrel Lomax will be three.

"The old firm at lock, Retallick and Whitelock."

From the outside looking in, it appears that a number of players could make the All Blacks’ No. 6 jumper their own this year.

Over the past few years, the likes of Akira Ioane, Shannon Frizell and Ethan Blackadder have impressed – but none of them have cemented their place. The All Blacks still are looking for the next Jerome Kaino.

But Donald believes the All Blacks should pick a familiar face at blindside flanker.

"Scott Barrett will add the extra punch at six to compete with some of these massive packs they’re going to come up against," he added. "Sam Cane will be captain and seven. Ardie Savea will be the talisman at eight."

As for the backline, Donald is expecting the Chiefs to win this year's Super Rugby Pacific title – and for Damian McKenzie to be rewarded for his "career-best form."

Donald also would pick an All Blacks veteran in the midfield, while the fan favorite to start at No. 12 takes his place at fullback.

"Aaron Smith will be at nine, Damian McKenzie on the back of winning a Super title and career-best form will be directing the ship at 10," he added.

"Then we go to Will Jordan will be on a wing, the midfield will be (Anton Lienert-Brown) ALB and Rieko (Ioane). Telea will be on the other wing, and Jordie Barrett will return to the role that he's filled many times of 15.

"Jordan and Telea can work out which wing they want, they can flip for a coin on that one, because, obviously, both have excelled on the right wing."

Outside back is a heavily contest position within the All Blacks’ ranks at the moment.

One player who wasn't named by Donald was Chiefs fullback Shaun Stevenson.

Stevenson was the form player of Super Rugby Pacific for the opening month or so of the competition and has continued to impress, alongside the likes of Damian McKenzie.

The Chiefs flyer currently is among the league leaders for tries scored, meters carried and clean breaks.

After doing a pre-preseason training session with Stephen Donald before Christmas – which included 10-kilometer runs along the beach without music – Stevenson believes he's "ready" for test rugby.

"Those ups and downs and playing Maori All Blacks and All Blacks XV, I think I am ready to play test rugby," Stevenson told RugbyPass. "If I do get a callup, I’ll be very grateful to represent my country. If I do get the opportunity to represent my country, I’ll try to take it with two hands.

"With the confidence I’m trying to play with at the moment, hopefully I can put that on the field and not shy away that it's a step up, but it's the same players you’re playing in Super Rugby.

"Once we get there, I’ll have to lean on some of the older boys in terms of some experience if I do get to that point, but I do feel like I am ready to play test rugby."

The All Blacks kick off their Rugby World Cup campaign against hosts France in Paris in September.


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Stephen Donald's All Blacks' Starting Side