2022 End-of-Season Ratings: Outside Backs
As we run through the final article for the All Blacks' end-of-season overall player ratings, it's time to look at the outside backs. As the casuals seem to think the wingers and fullback are the most important positions, this will be very interesting to go through.
Five players played minutes at left wing, just four earned minutes on the right wing, while the fullback jersey was also worn by just four players; with Jordie Barrett's increasing domination of the depth chart.
Without further adieu, let's make an in-depth recognition of which players in Ian Foster's most recent All Blacks squad, are best-positioned for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
The All Blacks' 2020-22 Left Wing Depth Chart.
The All Blacks' 2020-22 Right Wing Depth Chart.
The All Blacks' 2020-22 Fullback Depth Chart.
Outside Backs Season Reviews
Jordie Barrett (953 minutes played) - 8/10
What position is more important? Second-five, or fullback? The answer to that question will also give you Jordie Barrett's jersey number for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, barring injury to David Havili and Anton Lienert-Brown.
While Barrett's season didn't quite reach the heights of 2021, he now has a 50% share of the 15 depth chart in the Ian Foster era. Barrett's tactical kicking and long-range goals remain world-class resources to the team, while 5 tries, 17 conversions and 4 penalty goals were Barrett's point-scoring tally for the season, he now ranks 8th on the All Blacks' all-time points-scoring list.
Jordie Barrett, pictured at wing for the Hurricanes in 2019, has evolved into a far better player than he once was. Photo: Max Sharp.
Having amassed the most minutes of any player under Ian Foster, with 2166 played of a possible 2720, another strong year despite tough circumstances, will see Barrett remain in the team's spine, because with all this experience, he is now the team's most important player.
Caleb Clarke (773 minutes played) - 6/10
After missing the 2021 season because of an attempt to make it to the Tokyo Olympics, Clarke returned to test level in 2022. Having burst onto the scene with genuine power, his return was much-anticipated.
Scoring just three tries from 10 tests and leaking a fair few tries thanks to errors in defensive positioning however, have lead to Clarke receiving his share of criticism. At 1.84m and 107kg, he makes for a solid ruck clearance option out wide, as well as an effective crash-ball runner to follow scrums with.
Clarke's definitely assisted the team with ball-in-hand, but will need to continue the progress he made under the high ball. While he definitely has a good chance of making the World Cup squad, All Black wingers have worse job security than actors.
Will Jordan (578 minutes played) - 5/10
After amassing 17 test tries from his first 13 test matches, Jordan's prolific try-scoring rate took a crash in 2022. Having severely inflated his rate of scoring with 5 tries against Tonga and a hat-trick against the USA in 2021, Jordan scored just four times in 2022.
While he was fit to play during the All Blacks' end-of-year tour, Jordan was banned from flying by medical professionals, as an inner ear issue was affecting Jordan. Still a highly effective extra distributor and kicking option, but was exposed defensively a fair few times.
This would have been a disappointing season for Jordan, but look for him to bounce back in 2023, plenty of signs point to the possibility of him being the World Cup's leading try-scorer.
Sevu Reece (371 minutes played) - 4/10
Jordan's COVID-19 infection and Clarke's injury allowed for Reece to start in all three tests against Ireland, though he played just 12 minutes in The Rugby Championship, with Foster wanting to get two very different wingers in his starting XV.
Sevu Reece, pictured at left wing for the All Blacks at Sky Stadium. Photo: Max Sharp.
After a mixed effort against Japan with a try and 92 metres, but 5/9 tackles, Reece was barely sighted against Wales due to a lack of ball. Reece will be 26 years old for the World Cup, so is definitely young enough to make it.
Reece's likelihood of selection was initially a safe bet, he now commands second place on the 14 depth chart and when taking Rieko Ioane's position swap into account, you could also say Reece is the second-choice left wing too. The emergence of Telea however, will lead to Reece's selection for 2023, being form pending.
Mark Telea (160 minutes played) - 8/10
Earlier in 2022, I predicted the Springboks' 2023 Rugby World Cup squad, making the call that we could perhaps see Mark Telea there as a like-for-like replacement of Makazole Mapimpi. Mapimpi and Telea are highly coachable and similar players, while Mapimpi is nearly 33 years old.
A prediction of the Springboks' 2023 Rugby World Cup squad, uploaded in May 2022, included Mark Telea.
However, I am so glad, to have been so wrong. Born in Auckland to a South African father and Samoan mother, Telea has chosen his nation of birth instead. After not playing during the 2020 North vs South Island rugby match, it was finally confirmed that Telea was indeed on Foster's radar after a call-up during the Ireland series. At 100kg, Telea is very powerful, but also works hard off the ball.
Finally debuting for the All Blacks aged 25, Telea started both of the last two tests in 2022 at right wing, scoring 2 tries, beating 6 defenders and running 136 metres in two tests. While Telea took a long time to feature in black, he barely put a foot wrong in black. The bolter for 2023 has already been capped and it was about time Telea finally showed up in his test debut, after a rough start to life.
Leicester Fainga'anuku (120 minutes played) - 4/10
All Black #900 (Inga Tuigamala), All Black #1000 (Carl Hayman) and All Black #1100 (Ben Smith), all achieved a significant amount in their careers. Fainga'anuku, the 1200th All Black, has instead been used as a scapegoat for the Ireland series, he has not featured in a black jersey since his yellow card in Dunedin.
Leicester Fainga'anuku's highly anticipated test debut perhaps didn't turn out the way many fans believed it would. Photo: Max Sharp.
Fainga'anuku has been on my radar ever since tearing it up for the NZ Schools in 2017, but his test experience has exposed him as a victim of NZ rugby's homogenous coaching. This coaching style has seen him not do much aside from run over other players at club level, though Scott Robertson's Crusaders have created an environment for these aspects of Fainga'anuku's game, to be papered over.
While Fainga'anuku has the definite potential to be a far better player than Caleb Clarke and Mark Telea, he will currently be in a list of players whose genuine ability has been vastly overinflated by Robertson's coaching, with the list including the likes of Ethan Blackadder, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bower, Cullen Grace and Bryn Hall. Hopefully Fainga'anuku can learn from his unfortunate experiences against Ireland, because we at least saw glimpses of the player he could be. I apologise for exaggerating his skill level in earlier articles.
Outside Backs Season Rating: 6/10