All-Time All Blacks XV Nominees - Inside Backs
Written by Max Sharp.
The Black Jersey has held an annual vote for an all-time All Blacks XV, the lineup is determined by our followers' votes on Instagram stories. Firstly, followers will be asked to vote on wether they wish to have 22 players or 23 players, a lock or loose forward in jersey number 19, then which kinds of backs they want to wear jerseys 22 and 23.
Votes for the inside backs, the halfback and first-five, will be counted following the votes cast for the outside backs. Picking the nominees for the inside backs took nearly a week, as players from the amateur era did not often hold down the 9 or the 10 jersey on a long-term basis, while New Zealand was once known for an endless supply of goal-kicking fullbacks. While the first-choice first-five will be an obvious pick, the other halfback and replacements will have very unique outcomes!
* denotes that the player is still active at professional level.
Sid Going MBE (1967-77), 29 test caps
Dave Loveridge (1978-1985), 24 test caps
David Kirk MBE (1985-87), 17 test caps
Graeme Bachop (1987-95), 31 test caps
Justin Marshall MNZM (1995-2005), 81 test caps
Aaron Smith (2012-21), 102 test caps*
Ponty Reid (1952-57), 5 test caps
Piri Weepu (2004-13), 71 test caps
Alan "Ponty" Reid, stood at just 160cm and 59kg, is tied as the lightest-ever All Black. Despite this, the 5-test All Black played 10 of his 17 games in the black jersey as captain, inspiring generations. Going and Loveridge filled roles as Reid's spiritual successor later, they became captains themselves, while most importantly, Kirk did too. Kirk became the first World-Cup winning captain, though Bachop subsequently succeeded Kirk as the first-choice. In the professional era, Marshall, Weepu and Smith (despite a four-season form slump) have all played at least one test as captain, while they have all produced styles of play to compliment the game plan of their team.
Justin Marshall, now aged 48 years old, has become a rugby commentator for Sky Network Television in New Zealand since hanging his boots up from professional sports in 2010. Photo: Mikayla Sharp.
Sir Fred Allen KNZM OBE (1946-49), 6 test caps
Andrew Mehrten MNZM (1995-2004), 70 test caps
Richie Mo'unga (2018-21), 32 test caps*
Grant Fox MBE (1985-93), 46 test caps
Aaron Cruden (2010-17), 50 test caps*
Carlos Spencer (1997-2004), 35 test caps
Billy Stead (1904-08), 7 test caps
Dan Carter ONZM (2003-15), 112 test caps
Although Daniel Carter will undoubtedly win the vote for the 10 jersey, the jersey has long-been used to steer the All Blacks to victory. One of the most famous "original" All Blacks is Stead, a stalwart of Southland rugby. The amateur era was also the time of Allen's dominance, though he contributed even more to the All Blacks as a coach, Fox has made similar impact as a selector, though his playing days were elite. The All Blacks have then produced endless talent at 10 since the professional era's dawn, Mehrtens and Spencer had hard-fought competition for the jersey, while Cruden's offloading game and nerves of steel entertained many crowds in the 2010's. Mo'unga is the player currently filling this role, by the end of his career he will be a very memorable player because of the impact he has already provided to the jersey.
Mo'unga (as pictured in 2019) is still active in professional rugby. Photo: Max Sharp.
Honourable Mentions: Jimmy Cowan, Beauden Barrett (nominated at fullback), TJ Perenara, Byron Kelleher, Stephen Donald