Rugby World Cup 2019: Newshub's rugby experts pick their All Blacks squad - backs

OPINION: The All Blacks 2019 Rugby World Cup squad is mere days away from being named.

Coach Steve Hansen and his merry men will call 31 players to action, tasked with leading New Zealand to an unprecedented World Cup three-peat.

With inconsistent form through four tests so far this season, the powers-that-be have some debatable selection dilemmas to delve into.

The outside backs make-up - has Sonny Bill Williams done enough? How many loose forwards do you take? Are Ben Smith and Owen Franks past it?

Our Newshub rugbyheads have their own thoughts - some will no doubt differ from the man charged with bringing back the Webb Ellis Trophy (aka 'Bill') from Japan. 

Today, we look at the backs and ask our pundits who they would take to the 2019 Rugby World Cup. 

Outside backs

Ross Karl, Newshub rugby editor 

Beauden Barrett, Ben Smith, George Bridge, Sevu Reece, Rieko Ioane 

The All Blacks celebrate a Sevu Reece try against the Wallabies.
The All Blacks celebrate a Sevu Reece try against the Wallabies. Photo credit: Photosport

Because Beauden Barrett is in the starting XV, I've put him in the outside backs category.

With Beauden and Ben Smith there, there is no need for Jordie Barrett, who is probably too inconsistent for big tests at the moment. 

On top of that, I'd rather take an extra forward than another outside back.

Andrew Gourdie, Newshub sports presenter 

Beaden Barrett, Ben Smith, Rieko Ioane, George Bridge, Sevu Reece 

Unlucky for Jordie Barrett, but George Bridge sealed his status as the All Blacks' premier utility outside back against the Wallabies at Eden Park. Sevu Reece provides X-factor cover on the wing.

Ollie Ritchie, The Cup 19 Podcast host, Newshub sports reporter

Beauden Barrett, George Bridge, Sevu Reece, Ben Smith, Rieko Ioane

Barrett is here, as he'll be playing fullback. Bridge and Reece have simply been too good to leave out, and deserve their spot.

Ioane is still the starting left wing for me and we have to trust he'll find form. 

With Beauden at fullback, Ben Smith can occupy the No.23 jersey. Jordie Barrett's time will come, but he's been far too inconsistent, while others have starred.

Luke Robinson, Newshub digital sport producer

Beauden Barrett, Ben Smith, Sevu Reece, Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett

I've gone with two specialist wingers in Reece and Ioane. Beauden Barrett can cover first-five if need be and Jordie gets the nod over George Bridge - it's close, but I think he offers more.

Bridge is the unlucky one from this squad naming.

Jordie Barrett appears to be on the fringe of selection.
Jordie Barrett appears to be on the fringe of selection. Photo credit: Getty

John Day, Newshub rugby reporter 

Ben Smith, Beauden Barrett, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, George Bridge, Sevu Reece 

Everyone loves a World Cup bolter, even though it's highly unlikely this time, but Havili's been consistently good for a long time now and is surely a better utility option than Jordie Barrett, who can be unreliable in big matches.

Midfield

Ross Karl 

Sonny Bill Williams, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape

I've gone with Ngani Laumape over Ryan Crotty, because his line-breaking runs offer a point of difference that only Australia's Samu Kerevi and England's Manu Tuilagi can match. 

Also, if Anton Lienert-Brown was to get injured, they'll need Laumape's midfield impact off the bench. 

Andrew Gourdie 

Sonny Bill Williams, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape, Ryan Crotty 

Yes, five midfielders. Sonny Bill's fitness is a major concern, and I'm deeply uncomfortable about the prospect of a 10/12/13 combination of Mo'unga/Laumape/Goodhue playing a World Cup knockout match with barely 30 caps between them. 

If SBW were to fall over, Ryan Crotty could complete a Crusaders trio, which can transfer Super Rugby form to the international stage.

Crucially, he would also provide a trusted and experienced voice outside Mo'unga, who's still establishing himself as an international 10. 

Laumape's explosive point of difference can be a weapon off the bench, and he essentially gets the nod over Jordie Barrett.

Jack Goodhue in action.
Jack Goodhue in action. Photo credit: Getty

Ollie Ritchie

Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams 

SBW has looked good in the time he's had, but limited play and injuries are a worry. Goodhue and Lienert-Brown pick themselves, while Crotty gets the nod, because of experience and form up until his injury. 

He's done the job in the black jersey on countless occasions and is just sort of player you want in an important World Cup match.

Luke Robinson

Anton Lienert-Brown, Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Ngani Laumape 

SBW makes it just ahead of Crotty, who hasn't had any rugby in two months. 

All four of these guys will play their part in this World Cup and will all be vital - Lienert-Brown and Goodhue should start.

John Day

Sonny Bill Williams, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty

This comes down to a call between Crotty and Ngani Laumape, who's clearly a better attacking weapon, but in terms of big-game experience, versatility, leadership, passing skills, communication and defensive accuracy, it's Crotty - as long as he stays fit.

Ryan Crotty hasn't played rugby in two months.
Ryan Crotty hasn't played rugby in two months. Photo credit: Getty

First-fives

Ross Karl  

Richie Mo'unga 

Having just one specialist 10 looks skint but Barrett is also in the squad. Plus, there isn't another fit, New Zealand based player, that's ready to be a World Cup No.10.

If either goes down, then TJ Perenara or Ben Smith can be used as last-gasp cover.

If it's the week of the final, and Barrett or Mo'unga goes down, then please throw out the NZR rule book and call Lima Sopoaga!

Andrew Gourdie 

Richie Mo'unga

With Josh Ioane very much on standby, holidaying in South Korea.  

Ollie Ritchie

Richie Mo'unga

Beauden Barrett is an outside back, so just Mo'unga is needed here, with Barrett obviously the No.10 cover. Mo'unga is looking more and more comfortable with each game in the black jersey.

Richie Mo'unga is on the plane.
Richie Mo'unga is on the plane. Photo credit: Photosport

Luke Robinson

Richie Mo'unga 

Mo'unga is the only first five - but that's because Beauden Barrett is an outside back in this squad and provides more than adequate cover in the No.10 jersey, if needed.

John Day

Richie Mo'unga 

A bit of a concern going into the World Cup with just two first-five options. If 2011 repeats, this could get very interesting.

Halfbacks 

Ross Karl 

Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, TJ Perenara 

No other contenders. 

Andrew Gourdie 

Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Brad Weber 

Ollie Ritchie

Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Brad Weber 

Luke Robinson

Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Brad Weber 

John Day

Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Brad Weber

On Sunday, our experts select the makeup of the All Blacks forwards. Join us for live updates of the 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign.

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