High highs and low lows for centers and outside backs

After a disastrous start to the season, dropping three of their first four games, the All Blacks fought their way to third spot on the World Rugby rankings off the back of six wins and a draw at the tail-end of their campaign.

Gauging where the team is now compared to the start of the season is a difficult task, however, given the disparate strengths of the opposition faced either side of the season.

Ireland and South Africa – who collectively inflicted three defeats on New Zealand – will be contenders at next year’s Rugby World Cup. The likes of Australia, Scotland and Wales, however, will rightly be rank outsiders.

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Regardless of the team’s overall standing, there were certainly a number of players who advanced their cases for selection throughout the season – and a number of men who may well have played their final Tests.

This week, RugbyPass will be rating the performances of the All Blacks throughout the season. Today we look at how the midfielders and outside backs faired in 2022.

Midfield

David Havili – 5/10
Played: 10 (7 starts)
Best performance: Argentina II

Somewhat ironically, it was only when Havili was starting to really find his feet as an All Black – and was given free rein to make the most of his diverse skillset – that he lost his place in the starting line-up to Jordie Barrett. Havili could potentially be a very strong Test player, but not when his core duty is reduced to attempting to crash the ball up in the midfield, something he’s ill-suited for. Against South Africa in Johannesburg and Argentina in Hamilton, Havili’s distributive game (both out of hand and off the boot) helped unlock some sturdy defenses but we never got to see him at his best because injury paved the way for Barrett’s shift to 12, and he was clearly a better fit for what Ian Foster expects from his inside centre.

Jack Goodhue – N/A
Played: 0

While Goodhue was included in the All Blacks squad for the first half of the campaign, he didn’t get on the park and eventually succumbed to a knee injury. A spot at the World Cup is likely out of reach for the smooth operator who’s had a wretched run of luck.

Rieko Ioane – 7
Played: 12 (11 starts)
Best performance: Argentina II

Ioane’s form throughout 2022 largely mirrored that of the All Blacks’. He started slowly, bursting to life in the second Test with the Springboks and delivering another strong performance against the Pumas in Hamilton (but was dire against the same opposition in Christchurch) and was one of New Zealand’s best in the Bledisloe Cup clashes with Australia. While Ioane delivered a game-changing cameo off the bench in Edinburgh, his two starts on the end-of-year tour against Wales and England were hugely disappointing. He’s an incredibly dangerous individual but the consistency is n’t there just yet and the jury is out on whether lui’s center is his best position, even after some compelling performances in the role this year.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – N/A
Played: 3 (1 start)
Best performance: Japan

After a lot of hype, the Tuivasa-Sheck show was a bit of a non-event in 2022. Could he be a great international midfielder? Potentially. He certainly didn’t get the opportunity to test it this year, however.

Quinn Tupaea – 6
Played: 7 (2 starts)
Best Performance: Ireland I

Injury robbed Tupaea of ​​building on what was a reasonably solid start to the year, with the young Chief delivering a compelling performance in the opening Test of the season before going backwards against Ireland the following week (then again, who didn’t?). When Havili returned from injury at the end of the July series, Tupaea was forced into a bench role where he was typically able to add some impact later in matches. A bad injury against the Wallabies, however, prevented Tupaea from really hitting his straps in 2022 and he will be in a race against time ahead of next year’s World Cup to get back out on the field and prove he’s one of the top midfielders in the country.

Braydon Ennor – N/A
Played: 2 (1 start)
Best performance: Japan

Ennor has yet to really find his top form since a run of bad injuries and spending much of the season on the training park for the All Blacks probably won’t have helped his development as much as playing week in and week out for Canterbury. He doesn’t look like an All Blacks midfielder right now and with Havili, Goodhue and Leicester Fainga’anuku all options at the Crusaders, it’s hard to know if he’ll get the real chance to develop into one.

Anton Lienert-Brown – 5
Played: 4 (1 start)
Best Performance: Scotland

After a lengthy injury lay-off, Lienert-Brown featured in all four of New Zealand’s end-of-year tour games and generally looked short of a gallop. While the All Blacks’ many defensive issues late against Japan and England were n’t all down to him, they did seem to occur around his channel, which was n’t the best look of him. There were glimpses of the skills and talents Lienert-Brown brings to the field as the game unfolded in Edinburgh but there were also plenty of mistakes from the undercooked midfielder, who will be in much better form after a full season of Super Rugby Pacific next year .

Outside backs

Caleb Clarke – 6
Played: 10 (10 starts)
Best performance: Argentina II

After bursting onto the scene in 2020, Clarke still hasn’t quite found his feet at Test level – both literally and figuratively. Although Clarke’s potential is unquestionable, the 23-year-old wasn’t able to string together too many impactful performances throughout 2022. While tries scored should never be the sole measure of a winger’s worth, just three touchdowns in 10 illustrated appearances Clarke’s less- than-stellar impact this year. While he found himself in open space from time to time – thanks in part of his ability to throw himself through a gap – the All Blacks were rarely able to capitalize on those opportunities. With so many good wing options around the country, Super Rugby form could play a bit part in who makes it to next year’s Rugby World Cup. You get the feeling that Clarke could ‘click’ at any time – but it didn’t happen in 2022.

Leicester Fainga’anuku – 5
Played: 2 (2 starts)
Best performance: Ireland 1

After getting two starts in the All Blacks’ opening games of the season, Fainga’anuku wasn’t sighted for the remainder of the year. His debut against Ireland wasn’t too shabby at all, with a couple of devastating runs but he couldn’t quite replicate that same performance the following week and was caught out a handful of times on defense (and also copped a yellow card for an attempted charge-down). He looks to have lost his place in the pecking order to Mark Telea.

Will Jordan – 6
Played: 8 (7 starts)
Best Performance: Australia II

After being named Breakout Player of the Year in 2021, Jordan had a tougher time of things this season. His late-season unavailability coincided with New Zealand’s best form and in the first half of the year, Jordan’s struggles matches those of the side as a whole. There were some strong performances littered throughout, particularly the two Bledisloe Tests and the rematch with the Springboks in Johannesburg, which showcased Jordan at his best, but there were also some dips throughout the season. You get the feeling that Jordan was set to hit his straps in November but an inner-ear problem curtailed that.

Sevu Reece – 6
Played: 6 (5 starts)
Best Performance: Ireland I

For a player that loves to get involved, Reece struggled to do just that in 2022. The opening match against Ireland was the exception; Reece was here, there and everywhere, but he didn’t take his chances throughout the campaign. He barely got his hands on the ball in the latter two Tests with Ireland and had the same problem against Wales and as the end of the season, Mark Telea was preferred on the right wing. With the likes of Clarke, Fainga’anuku, Jordan and potentially even Rieko Ioane to compete with in the outside backs, Reece won’t have many opportunities next year to push for selection ahead of the World Cup.

Jordie Barrett – 7
Played: 12 (12 starts)
Best Performance: Australia II

New Zealand’s most consistent back. While many were (perhaps rightly) calling for Barrett to be shifted to the midfield, his work under the high ball was hugely important in the All Blacks remaining competitive in South Africa and with another player wearing No 15, might not have grabbed the win at Ellis Park. Barrett was Mr Reliable during the middle part of the year and then really flourished when he did eventually get pushed into second five-eighth, delivering strong showings against Australia, Wales and England. How Barrett is used by Foster and co next year will be fascinating.

Mark Telea – 8
Played: 2 (2 starts)
Best Performance: Scotland

Telea barely put a foot wrong in his two impressive showings on the right win against Scotland and England. One non-pass aside, Telea made every touch, carry and run count and would have given the selectors plenty of food for thought ahead of next season. He might not quite have the aerial or kicking game of Jordan or the same power as Clarke, but he’s devastating with ball in hand and should be proud of his two appearances from him to round out the year.

Full ratings

Hookers:
Dane Coles – 4/10
Samisoni Taukei’aho – 8
Codie Taylor – 5
Asafo Aumua – N/A

Props:
Aidan Ross – N/A
George Bower – 6
Nepo Laulala – 4
Angus Taavao – 4
Ofa Tu’ungafasi – 5
Karl Tu’inukuafe – N/A
Tyrel Lomax – 7
Ethan de Groot – 6
Fletcher Newell – 5

Locks:
Scott Barrett – 7
Josh Lord – N/A
Brodie Retallick – 7
Tupou Vaa’i – 5
Sam Whitelock – 7
Josh Dickson – N/A
Patrick Tuipulotu – N/A

Loose forwards:
Sam Cane – 6
Akira Ioane – 6
Dalton Papali’i – 7
Ardie Savea – 8
Hoskins Sotutu – 6
Pita Gus Sowakula – N/A
Shannon Frizell – 6
Billy Harmon – N/A

Halfbacks:
Finlay Christie – 5
Folau Fakatava – 5
Aaron Smith – 6
Brad Weber – N/A
TJ Perenara – 6

First fives:
Beauden Barrett – 5
Richie Mo’unga – 7
Stephen Perofeta – N/A

Midfield:
David Havili – 5
Jack Goodhue – N/A
Rieko Ioane – 7
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – N/A
Quinn Tupaea – 6
Braydon Ennor – N/A
Anton Lienert-Brown – 5

Outside backs:
Caleb Clarke – 6
Leicester Fainga’anuku – 5
Will Jordan – 6
Sevu Reece – 5
Jordie Barrett – 7
Mark Telea – 8

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