What was the point in calling Roger Tuivasa-Sheck into the All Blacks if Ian Foster and co. don’t pick him to start?
Thursday’s team announcement – where Jordie Barrett was given the nod at second-five – is all the confirmation needed to see the glaring reality.
The All Blacks don’t have faith in Tuivasa-Sheck
The 29-year-old second-five has been named to start on the bench for the All Blacks’ test against the Wallabies at Eden Park on Saturday.
Even though David Havili and Quinn Tupaea are out injured, All Blacks coach Ian Foster has decided to go with semiregular fullback Jordie Barrett for the No 12 jersey this weekend instead of Tuivasa-Sheck.
With Anton Leinert-Brown back soon and Jack Goodhue returning next year, the pathway for Tuivasa-Sheck to make it into the World Cup squad is getting murkier.
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When asked why he had gone with Barrett rather than Tuivasa-Sheck for Saturday’s test, Foster reverted to last week’s close win over the Wallabies in Melbourne, when Barrett filled in at second-five, partnering Rieko Ioane in the midfield.
“He hasn’t played many games for the ABs this year, but in and around training he’s learning as much as he can.
“He just wants to play and learn. The midfield is a tricky area, so him getting games under his belt for Auckland and learning off the 12s we have here is only going to accelerate that progression.
“I’m excited to see him go out there on Saturday, back at the garden (Eden Park).”
Tuivasa-Sheck’s team-mate at the All Blacks and Blues, Dalton Papalii says Tuivasa-Sheck hasn’t been kicking stones about his selection issues. Although anyone who knows Tuivasa-Sheck from his time in league knows he would never be like that.
“His character is always team-first,” Papalii said.
“It’s awesome how he controls himself, from league [into] rugby, when he was starting. “Also, coming into this environment and not dropping his lip. He’s been putting his best foot forward.
“We have a culture in this team that if the team’s named and you’re not in it, you’ve still got a second job to do, which is to get the boys prepared for the game.
“It’s not just the 23, it’s the whole team that matters.”
But at his age, next year is likely to be Tuivasa-Sheck’s only shot at playing at a Rugby World Cup and if the writing is on the wall that he’s not going to make it far in the 15-man code, he could decide to cut his losses (and increase his salary) and return to league.
When Tuivasa-Sheck left the Warriors last year, it was on the proviso that if he did return to league, he’d come back to that club and certainly they’d welcome him with open arms, even if trying to fit him inside their salary cap wouldn’t be easy and they’ve already signed Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad for the No 1 jersey next year.
Tuivasa-Sheck may back himself and feel he can make the improvements in his game to become an All Black regular.
Or, he might do a Benji Marshall and quickly return to the code where he’s played his best footy.