“We’re going to have to be hungry for success,” Steve Hansen said, after announcing the squad. In my view this is the key attribute required to win the Rugby World Cup. We have the players, we have the history, we have the technical and tactical skill and nous. But we won’t win the Cup unless we have sufficient hunger! We often hear comments like “we need experience at this level.” This is true, but sometimes players with experience lack the hunger. On the other hand they have the ability to apply themselves mentally – to live, think and play in the moment, without the mind being distracted in any way or form. This is what we call mental toughness. Most experienced players have this attribute. The hunger is desire – to be desperate to do as well as you possibly can.
The naming of the squad was interesting. The selectors named a utility forward and utility backs, which they don’t often do. The utility forward named was IRANZ graduate Jackson Hemopo who has played primarily as a lock. At the next level up he is probably going to be played as a blindside flanker. Jackson comes into the team to replace IRANZ graduate Liam Squire who is unavailable for the Rugby Championship. This doesn’t rule him out for the Rugby World Cup. Time will tell.
The selectors have named Jordie Barrett and Braydon Ennor as utility backs. I believe Jordie Barrett is the second-best fullback in New Zealand. Selectors see him as a utility back they will be able to use in other positions. Ben Smith will probably be the fullback for the Rugby Championships and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jordie play either on the wing or in the midfield somewhere.
The other utility back, Braydon Ennor, is in a similar situation, having played wing and centre for the Crusaders. I’m sure he will get an opportunity during the Rugby Championships, probably on the wing. We have limited experience and strike power here with Rieko Ioane the only experienced player at this level and two new boys – Bridge and Reece. Once again, time will tell. It’s a means for Hansen and co to identify their top 15 and their impact players. It also allows them the luxury of determining whether new squad members are compatible with the Hansen environment. By the time they reach the first Rugby World Cup match against South Africa we will see a settled team. I would expect them to go on and play quarter finals, semi finals and hopefully win the bloody thing. It’s what we’re all hoping for.