Ollie Ritchie: The All Blacks who can shift selection needle after thumping Rugby World Cup victory over Namibia

Thrashings like the one the All Blacks dished out to Namibia at Stade de Toulouse can often be difficult games to get a read on.

Naturally, the game opens up and becomes a little unstructured, it's free flowing, defences are tired, and the points get piled on.

That being said, it still offered Ian Foster plenty of food for thought and the performances of some individuals short force changes to his first choice 23.

Cam Roigard is clearly New Zealand's second-best halfback behind Aaron Smith. It didn't just take his man of the match performance to show Foster that, his efforts off the bench against the Springboks should've been the first sign.

Cam Roigard against Namibia.
Cam Roigard against Namibia. Photo credit: Photosport

But Foster has persisted with Finlay Christie as his preferred back up halfback for the All Blacks' big matches. He can simply no longer justify doing that. They badly need Roigard's bigger frame and running game off the bench.  

Roigard played like a player in 50th test, not his third. His decision making was spot on, he knew when to run, when to pass, and crucially when to kick (or when not to). In fact, we didn't see his towering left boot come out until early in the second half. It was spot on too.  

His pairing with Damian McKenzie clearly worked well, and while the opposition was never exactly going to test them, it't not unheard of for players to take a while to gel and to start off somewhat clunky. That wasn't the case with Roigard and McKenzie.  

This could well be the All Blacks' nine-ten combination for the next few years.   

McKenzie was great in a game that was tailor made for him. It opened up, there was acres of space and McKenzie's game thrives in those sorts of circumstances.  

Foster needs to find a way to utilise that off the bench in crunch matches. 


Damian McKenzie.
Damian McKenzie. Photo credit: Getty Images

Leicester Fainga'anuku probably hasn't done enough to usurp Mark Telea on the left wing in Foster's top XV, but he did nothing to harm his case.  

He used his big frame well, he bullied the Namibian defence with ease and flourished with more time and space. Again, this was a game perfectly suited to Fainga'anuku's skillset but there may yet be a role for him in the first choice 23.  

Samisoni Taukei'aho doesn't seem to be packing quite the same punch as he was last year. He's been usurped by Codie Taylor for the starting hooker spot, and don't be surprised if Foster is considering having a look at Dane Coles as his deputy.  

Coles provided good punch off the bench against Namibia, and after less than memorable outing at Twickenham where the set piece really fell apart, they were minutes the veteran hooker needed. I think

Taukei'aho still has the egde, and can give the All Blacks a lift in the last 25 minutes, but Foster will be hoping he can get more of the bruising impact that Taukei'aho made a feature of his game last year. 

Front row changes are more than likely going to be required with Ethan de Groot expected to go for a skate after fronting the judiciary for his high shot in the 72nd minute against Namibia. 

Ofa Tu'ungafasi will come in as the starting loosehead, with World Cup minutes on the way for Tamaiti Williams off the bench for as long as de Groot is sidelined.   

The All Blacks should get Tyrel Lomax back to face Italy, be that off the bench or in a starting capacity, which will provide a timely lift to the pack.  

While Foster will likely be forced to shake things up in his 23 for at least their next pool match, their win against Namibia certainly showed there's some changes he should be choosing to make as well.

Ollie Ritchie is Newshub's rugby reporter