Rugby Championship 2018: New Zealand Preview

Rugby Championship 2018: New Zealand Preview

On the basis of New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchise's results this year – as well as their June Test series whitewash over France - there is every reason to believe that Steve Hansen’s All Blacks will be just as dominant in the 2018 Rugby Championship.

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The men in black have remained at the very summit of the world game since 2009 and their unparalleled success has led many to believe that they are in fact the most dominant sporting team in history, quite a statement considering such great sporting sides as the Brazil football team of 1970, the Chicago Bulls of the late 90’s, and the West Indies of the ‘70’s.

There are virtually no weaknesses to Steve Hansen’s side, with an over-abundance of young talent and old heads across all positions on the park giving them plenty with which to work. Considering the carnage the Crusaders’ front five wreaked on Super Rugby this year, the platform is well and truly set for Beauden Barrett to orchestrate absolute chaos upon the likes of the Springboks, Wallabies, and Los Pumas.

The return to the squad of hooker Dane Coles is a huge advantage for the islanders after an extended period out of the game due to concussion. The 31-year-old Hurricanes man will add plenty of value with his wide range of skills, though it remains to be seen how much time he receives from his superiors (word on the street is he’s aiming to return for the AB's final two Championship Tests).

Aside from him, there aren’t expected to be too many more surprises as Kieran Read’s men look to secure what would be a fifth title in six years.

Best Starting XV:
1. Joe Moody
2. Cody Taylor
3. Owen Franks
4. Sam Whitelock
5. Brodie Retallick
6. Liam Squire
7. Sam Cane
8. Kieran Read
9. Aaron Smith
10. Beauden Barrett
11. Rieko Ioane
12. Sonny Bill Williams
13. Ryan Crotty
14. Ben Smith
15. Jordie Barrett

Forward to Watch: Brodie Retallick
Retallick missed much of last season due to personal issues, but the 27-year-old former World Player of the Year has been back to his best for the Chiefs in Super Rugby. Despite missing his national side’s Test series against the French in June through injury, expect Retallick to slot seamlessly back into Hansen’s starting XV as they build towards yet another 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign.

Back to Watch: Rieko Ioane
Despite another subpar Super Rugby season from the Blues, Ioane continually impressed for the Auckland-based franchise. Following his claiming of the coveted Breakthrough Player of the Year for 2017, the 21-year-old will look to take his game to another level under Steve Hansen in what will be his second Rugby Championship. While he is seen as the AB's long-term answer in the midfield, we should expect to see him tearing it up on the left wing for New Zealand for at least another campaign.

Verdict: Champions 1/7

Written by Shaun Goosen for Hollywoodbets

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