This year’s Rugby World Cup in France is less than five months away, but there are plenty of questions that remain unanswered about what Ian Fosters’ squad may look like.
Throughout this season’s Super Rugby Pacific campaign, there have been a number of All Black veterans who have continued to show their class ahead of the sport’s most prestigious event.
All Blacks captain Sam Cane has made all 51 of his tackle attempts this season, while playmakers Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett have also shown glimpses of brilliance.
While all three Test stars appear to be certainties for the coveted World Cup squad, there are a number of other players battling every week – they’re in the mix, but must fight to prove their worth.
For players on the cusp of selection, time is running out as they look to stake their claim as potential bolters ahead of The Rugby Championship later this year.
The All Blacks are blessed with depth and talent, but not everyone gets to go to a World Cup. Instead, SENZ Breakfast host Tony Kemp has highlighted the two backline bolters he’d pick to go to France.
Hurricanes halfback Cam Roigard has emerged as a genuine World Cup bolter following a sensational start to this year’s Super Rugby Pacific campaign.
Roigard, who played for the All Blacks XV in 2022, was recently compared to Antoine Dupont for his excellent running game.
The rising star is among the fan favourites to force his way into the World Cup squad – and Tony Kemp agrees.
The (22-year-old) is smashing up the Super Rugby (competition),” Kemp said on SENZ Breakfast.
“In my opinion, (he) has surpassed incumbents Finlay Christie and Folau Fakatava.
“Man has he got speed to burn… not even a centre can catch that halfback if he get in the clear.
“We need that… on the back of his current strong Super Rugby campaign.”
The season ending injury to Crusaders winger Sevu Reece – which has ruled him out of the World Cup – has potentially opened up a spot in the outside backs for the All Blacks.
Ian Foster and the All Blacks have plenty of options to choose from to replace Reece, including the likes of Mark Telea and Leicester Fainga’anuku.
But Kemp believes the high-flying Shaun Stevenson can help the All Blacks unlock their attacking potential “on both sides of the pitch.”
“The Waikato outside back can cover almost any position in the backline but more importantly, he’s such an attacking weapon,” he added.
“The All Blacks are definitely going to need players with the X-factor just to get through the early rounds of the World Cup.
“Shaun would have to be just such a bolter.
“If you tie in Mark Telea, we are now talking strike power on both sides of the pitch.”
Roigard and the Hurricane will host Stevenson’s Chiefs at Sky Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
In the context of the season it doesn’t get any bigger.
The Hurricanes are first on the ladder, but the Chiefs are undefeated with a game in hand. There’s plenty of feeling whenever New Zealand teams go head-to-head, but this one mean more.