ANZ Pacific Nations Cup- more interesting than the All Blacks?
The All Blacks team to play France this weekend has been labeled the worst fielded by New Zealand in the Professional era. As a result much interest has turned to Samoa where the Junior All Blacks campaign in the ANZ Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) kicks off this Friday against Manu Samoa.
With the weakened All Blacks and likely defeat at the hands of the French, some commentators are saying the Junior All Blacks side is much more interesting. Ticket sales so far in Apia appear to back up this observation.
Says Gwynn on Planetnz.com, “To me this looks like a powerful Super 14 side, the forward pack offers plenty of bulk, with the loose trio presenting an imposing vissage, though perhaps a bit light on the fetching side of things, though Karl Lowe is very useful in this regard, but he's got a while to go till he's on par with Latimer and Waldrom.
“The biggest surprise for me was Robert Fruean. I really rate Fruean as a player of the future, offering size, power, speed and smarts, but at the same time, he's only been playing club rugby with a couple of bench appearances for the Hurricanes, it's going to be a big step up for him to this next level.”
Junior All Blacks co-coach Colin Cooper said: “We have got a talented squad of established international players plus up and coming players and (fellow Junior All Blacks co-coach) Ian Foster and I are excited about the campaign ahead.” “The Junior All Blacks have a proud unbeaten record in the Pacific Nations Cup and this year’s team will be keen to maintain that record,” he added.
Gwynn is confident of a runaway Juniors win commenting, “… the opposition they're up against, these guys should trample the Pacific Nations sides, and it's a real pity that there's no Australia A side in there.”
Manu Samoa Head Coach Fuimaono Tafua commented on his team’s chances, “Obviously the Junior All Blacks are the favourites while all the other teams, Fiji, Tonga and Japan have prepared looking forward to locking horns in the PNC. So with that in mind, we all have chances in this competition. The Manu this year has some very good players with the core of last year’s side making up the bulk of the team. We’ve been training well since we assembled early this week.
“We have a competitive forward pack aimed at controlling our ball and to contest theirs. Our backs are solid and experienced in the midfield with good pace and defensive skills we feel is on par with the Junior All Blacks. At the end of the day it’s the basics and the little things that need to be done well. If we manage to have things go our way in early piece, we know we have the capabilities to match and beat them on the scoreboard.”
The match kicks off at 4pm this Friday at Apia Park.
JUNIOR ALL BLACKS
Backs: Israel Dagg (Hawke's Bay), Lelia Masaga (Counties Manukau), Rene Ranger (Northland), Hosea Gear (Wellington), Robert Fruean (Wellington), Anthony Tuitavake (North Harbour), Tamati Ellison (Wellington), Ryan Crotty (Canterbury), Stephen Brett (Canterbury), Colin Slade (Canterbury), Alby Mathewson (Wellington), Chris Smylie (North Harbour)
Forwards: Sione Lauaki (Waikato), George Whitelock (Canterbury), Karl Lowe (Hawke's Bay), Victor Vito (Wellington), Bryn Evans (Hawke's Bay), Jason Eaton (Taranaki), Jeremy Thrush (Wellington), Tom Donnelly (Otago), Owen Franks (Canterbury), Ben Franks (Tasman), Jacob Ellison (Wellington), Jamie Mackintosh (Southland), Aled de Malmanche (Waikato), Hikawera Elliot (Hawke's Bay)
Backs: Junior Poluleuligaga, Notise Tauafao, Angelo Lani Malifa, Ki Anufe, Eliota Sapolu, Seilala Mapusua, Gavin Williams (V/Capt), Henry Faafili, Alesana Tuilagi, Esera Lauina, Reupena Levasa, Lolo Lui, Uale Mai
Forwards: Andrew Williams, Mahonri Schwalger, Fosi Palaamo, Census Johnston, Ernest Skelton, Justin Va’a, Filipo Levi, Joe Tekori, Jonathan Faamatuainu, Daniel Leo, Ofisa Treviranus, Misioka Timoteo, William Brame, Semo Sititi, George Stowers (Capt)