All Blacks have a wealth of backline talent
April 17, 2013
Blues winger Frank Halai is showing he has the potential to earn a place with the All Blacks © Getty Images
Following on from last week, we're going to have a look at some of the future stars you might see in the All Blacks jersey at the IRB Rugby World Cup in 2015.
Given that loyalty and faith has certainly been a strong aspect of the All Blacks' current coaching regime, we may not see these players in the near future. If they are involved, it will probably be as part of a wider training squad for the All Blacks. This was the case last year when Luke Whitelock was part of the All Blacks initial training squad.
There's no doubt the current coaching regime have great belief in what players have done in the All Blacks jersey historically. Even if their Super Rugby form doesn't support it, they'll be given every opportunity to prove themselves again in the black jersey.
First cab off the rank is a player we're well and truly aware of but is only starting to get the opportunities week in, week out, and that's Hurricanes half-back TJ Perenara.
After suffering a devastating injury last year he has well and truly regained his form in the early part of Super Rugby in 2013. His kicking game has vastly improved this year, with his ability to kick to space on the up. His defense is a real strength of his game, and his ability to anticipate play second to none.
There's been a real emergence of players across the franchises in the midfield this year and the first of these is the Chiefs' Bundee Aki.
On the back of a spectacular ITM Cup, Aki has taken his game to the next level and begun to deliver on all of his potential with a strong running game, a commitment to the tackle and a confidence that belies the young man. He has stepped into the Chiefs No. 12 jersey with real promise. As his game time has increased, his decision-making has improved.
The Blues' Francis Saili got a taste of Super Rugby in the latter part of 2012 and has continued to impress with not only his strong carrying ability, but his commitment to the contact parts of the game.
Having played for Auckland in the 2012 ITM Cup as a first-five, he has improved his distribution and kicking skills. Combined with his attacking ability, he has become a constant threat in the middle of the Blues' backline.
At 19, Jason Emery is continuing to grow with every opportunity he gets with the Highlanders this season. A player small in stature, he has exceptional footwork, has an excellent feel for the game and an incredibly high work rate. His commitment to the tackle is strong and as he gets more game time you will see him become more effective at distributing the ball.
As usual, we continue to find wingers with exceptional speed, size and a real flair for the game and Frank Halai has begun to make a real impact for the Blues. He's certainly still a raw talent, but dynamic all the same. He is a constant threat with or without the ball and as he gets more experience at the higher levels his game will continue to grow.
The challenge for all of these young players is consistency. With limited opportunities to impress post Super 15, their window of opportunity is now. The best way to do that is to show they have the capability to learn, to improve week to week and to do the little things that matter from game to game.
Good players focus on being in the right place at the right time and knowing what to do when a key moment arrives. This is the skill separating the average player from the great.
Another challenge facing the young men is the pressure and longevity of a tough physical campaign. Managing both their physical and emotional well-being is crucial if they are to survive what is a brutal competition.
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