There are three rules Ned lives his life by:
- Never get involved in a land war in Asia.
- Never go drinking with an Australian diplomat.
- Never bet against Shag.
So while Shag declined to follow some of the particulars of Ned’s advice about the All Blacks squad for RWC2019, frankly you’re probably better to trust him than me.
But (and remembering that “everything before but is bullshit”) …
Picking a squad of 31 is fundamentally about planning for injuries and form drop-offs. (Sure, you can fly in a new player for an injury, but not for falling form.)
Which is why I’d go for an 18-13 split between forwards and backs, rather than the normal 17-14 split. Especially if you’re taking Retallick with his injury (which is the right thing to do, but it comes with some amount of extra risk). And Owen Franks would be a good bloke to have in scrummaging practice, at least.
And in the midfield, while Crotty is a very fine and reliable player, he’s very similar to the Goodue and Lienert-Brown style. Whereas Laumape is more SBW.
The really lucky guy in the 31 is probably Jordie Barrett. Unless something odd happens he’s not going to be in the match day 23 in the knockout stages, is he? (If you have to choose a third back for the bench, that will be Ben From Accounts, right?) So Jordie’s there to allow Mo’unga and Beaudie to have a rest through the pool matches.
Or, maybe, but?
One thing to know about Shag from the 2017 match against the Lions when SBW got red-carded: he immediately subbed off Jerome Kaino to keep a full complement of backs, and run one short in the forwards. (The WTF look on Kaino’s face was priceless.) What that tells you is that Shag had run all the scenarios, and he knew exactly what to do in such a rare circumstance.
So, what if you’re thinking ahead to the players you would want on the field for a kicking competition when a knockout match is drawn after extra time?
Like I say, never bet against Shag.