Lions tour: Opinion - Time to give Augustine Pulu his chance in black

Augustine Pulu has been a stand-out for the Blues this season. Photo credit: Getty
Augustine Pulu has been a stand-out for the Blues this season. Photo credit: Getty

OPINION: There's a situation brewing in New Zealand rugby that begs the rather fortunate question: What do we do with all our talent?

It's a fair question, and one which I'm really glad I don't have to answer.

But the selection headache taking place in several key positions is stirring debate among the All Blacks toughest selectors: The New Zealand public. 

Halfback is one of those positions which realistically any one of three players could start in. The depth of nines in New Zealand rugby is high at the moment, and selection there is now more widespread than simply "Who backs up Aaron Smith?"

While Smith has been the clear choice over the past few years, TJ Perenara has showed he can just as easily do the job as the starter.

When Aaron Smith had an unfortunate off field incident last year, Perenara took his opportunity to start with both hands, eventually keeping Smith on the bench for a large part of last years end of year tour.

Pulu has been in stellar form for the Blues this season. Photo credit: Photosport
Pulu has been in stellar form for the Blues this season. Photo credit: Photosport

The Hurricanes halfback has continued to show that form throughout the Super Rugby season so far. 

With Smith and Perenara offering similar threats, I'd still give the start to Smith based on his superior pass alone. You lose nothing bringing Perenara off the bench, and he'll bring the energy and flair the All Blacks need in the last 20-30.

Then there's Tawera Kerr-Barlow, who's been around the All Blacks set up for a while now, and is no less capable. His defence and aggression around the ruck have given the All Blacks just what they need.

But he was sloppy for the Maori All Blacks against the Lions, and add to that he's heading overseas soon. That being considered, now is the time to give Augustine Pulu the chance he deserves to back up Smith and Perenara.

Pulu has been a standout for the Blues this season, and has some (although very little) All Black experience. 

Kerr-Barlow hasn't stamped his name as the third choice halfback this year, and with him heading overseas this is the perfect time to give Pulu the international rugby exposure he needs.

With Pulu learning off Smith and Perenara for the next couple of years, come the 2019 World Cup in Japan, our depth at halfback could be right where we need it.

Ollie Ritchie is a Newshub sport reporter.

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