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

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 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 forwards and ask our pundits who they would take to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Loose forwards
 

John Day, Newshub rugby reporter

Kieran Read, Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Matt Todd, Luke Jacobson

Vaea Fifta is more of a blindside/lock option, which the All Blacks don't require, plus he hasn't really stood out this season, whereas Jacobson's a blindside/No.8, who's massively on the rise.

Ross Karl, Newshub rugby editor 

Kieran Read, Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Matt Todd, Vaea Fifita, Luke Jacobson

Let's assume Liam Squire remains unavailable, then Luke Jacobson comes in.

In a perfect world, there'd be a player with more test experience than Jacobson, but he's the next best, if Squire is out.

He's an enforcer, with a big work rate and the ability to play six, eight and even seven at a pinch.

You could take only five loose forwards and an extra outside back, because Scott Barrett can cover six, but I think six loosies is safer, because of the injury cloud over Brodie Retallick and Jacobson's recent history of concussion.

Ardie Savea in action against the Pumas.
Ardie Savea in action against the Pumas. Photo credit: Getty

Andrew Gourdie, Newshub sports presenter

Kieran Read, Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Matt Todd, Luke Jacobson

Jacobson makes the cut, but if Liam Squire picks up the phone to Hansen over the next few days, then Jacobson stays home. Scott Barrett provides additional cover at six. 

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

Kieran Read, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Matt Todd, Jackson Hemopo, Luke Jacobson

Selected on the presumption Liam Squire won't be available, Jacobson is a strong ball runner, who has a big work ethic around the breakdown and set-piece. 

He can cover eight as well. Squire's absence has also helped guarantee Todd a spot. 

Vaea Fifita has had too many chances and done nothing with them. He was close to the worst player on the park in Buenos Aires, so I've opted for Hemopo as a six/lock utility. 

Luke Robinson, Newshub digital sports producer 

Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Kieran Read, Luke Jacobson, Matt Todd, Liam Squire

Squire simply has to be on the plane - it appears to be up to him, and the coaching staff should try everything in their power to get him locked and loaded. 

Vaea Fafita played his way out of the squad against Argentina.

Locks

 

John Day 

Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Patrick Tuipulotu

We need an extra lock, given the Retallick situation, and Tuipulotu proved in the Bledisloe test at Eden Park that he's the best option, ahead of Jackson Hemopo, who's combative and skillful, but not a specialist and isn't as experienced.

Ross Karl

Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Patrick Tuipulotu

Retallick's injury cloud means you need a fourth specialist lock. Tuipulotu proved against the Wallabies that he is that. He now needs to perform to his bone-jarring potential consistently.

Andrew Gourdie

Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Patrick Tuipulotu

I would have had Jackson Hemopo as my fourth lock a week ago, but Tuipulotu's performance against the Wallabies at Eden Park changed my mind. 

I'm sure Steve Hansen was referring to Tuipulotu when he said: "Some people really put their hands up last night. Where we had question marks, you no longer have question marks."

Brodie Retallick is an almost certain selection despite injury.
Brodie Retallick is an almost certain selection despite injury. Photo credit: Getty

Ollie Ritchie 

Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Patrick Tuipulotu

With Retallick under an injury cloud, probably until the quarter-final, you need four specialist locks. Retallick's absence at the start of the tournament means Whitelock and Barrett will start through the pool games, so Tuipulotu needs to cover from the bench. 

Luke Robinson 

Brodie Rettalick, Sam Whitelock, Patrick Tuipulotu, Scott Barrett

Four specialist locks because of Retallick's injury - Tuipulotu will cover the bench, until Retallick is fit.

Props 

 

John Day 

Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Angus Ta'avao

I once got told that loosehead props were a dime a dozen and good tightheads were hard to come by, so Atu Moli misses out to Ta'avao.

Joe Moody was a late call up in 2015.
Joe Moody was a late call up in 2015. Photo credit: Getty

Ross Karl 

Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Angus Ta'avao

Atu Moli misses out, because he's had the least experience at test level.

I won't pretend to know anything about which prop is better at scrummaging.

Andrew Gourdie 

Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Angus Ta'avao

I'm not entirely convinced that Franks will be picked ahead of Atu Moli. With fitness concerns to nailed-on selections like Brodie Retallick, Sonny Bill Williams and others, is Franks one injury worry too many? 

Form saw him axed after the Perth debacle and Hansen spoke of his liking for Moli, when explaining Karl Tu'inukuafe's earlier cull. This one is tight. 

Ollie Ritchie

Joe Moody, Owen Franks, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Angus Ta'avao

Ta'avao can play both sides of the scrum at a pinch, but really, scrums remain something no-one - other than front rowers and Mike Cron - knows anything about.

Luke Robinson

Joe Moody, Owen Franks, Nepo Laulala, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Angus Ta’avao

Ta'avao makes it over Atu Moli, given his versatility and ability to play both sides of the front row.

Hookers 

 

John Day 

Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Liam Coltman

Ross Karl

Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Liam Coltman

Dane Coles.
Dane Coles. Photo credit: AAP

Andrew Gourdie 

Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Liam Coltman

Ollie Ritchie 

Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Liam Coltman

Less attempts at throwing halfbacks into the second tier of the stands would be good please, Dane.

Luke Robinson

Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Liam Coltman

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