Written by Max Sharp.
Predicting a Rugby World Cup squad with a year left can be difficult, but by popular request, we'll have a look at a possible lineup for 2027, which is a huge five years away! We'll run through each position and see why this particular candidate suits the role, from jersey 1 through to jersey 23! Without further adieu, let's have a read!
Players will be referred to by how old they will be in 2027 in order to speak in future tense.
Loosehead Prop - Ethan de Groot
George Bower (35), Karl Tu'inukuafe (34) and Joe Moody (39) will all be well past their playing days when 2027 rolls around. Ethan de Groot on the other hand will be 29 at this World Cup. de Groot possesses the mobility and scrummaging prowess that few players his age possess and having played 4 tests already, he appears the front-runner to succeed the incumbents. Standing at 1.90m and 122kg, de Groot will easily be able to hold his own against the world's best props if he continues to improve, the future grasp on the number 1 jersey is his to lose!
Hooker - Samisoni Taukei'aho
Though he wasn't initially named in the All Blacks for 2021, Taukei'aho scored two tries for his home crowd in Hamilton on debut against Fiji. Though only one of his nine tests have been a start, he's a very intelligent player (Taukei'aho is a qualified lawyer) and looks ready to be a key decision-maker for the All Blacks. Taukei'aho will be 30 years old in 2027 and also, probably the height of his career. Dane Coles (aged 40) and Codie Taylor (aged 36) will likely be well-retired by 2027.
Tighthead Prop - Tamaiti Williams
Scott Robertson and Jason Ryan have groomed Williams to play at both sides of the scrum, but he will likely find his home in the number 3 jersey. Though Tyrel Lomax and Ofa Tu'ungafasi will still be playing rugby in 2027, Lomax hasn't lived up to the hype, while the oft-injured Tu'ungafasi will be 35 in 2027. As Williams is still young, he's a safer bet and at 1.96m and 144kg, he is a complete oxymoron of his first name (Tamaiti translates to boy) and will be a behemoth at scrum time. A 27-year-old Williams may even be the world's best prop by this time.
Lock 4 - Tupou Vaa'i
He became the first All Black to be born in the 21st century on his debut and Vaa'i is already everything you want from a modern lock. Brodie Retallick will be highly unlikely to feature in 2027, he has hinted at retirement already, whereas Vaa'i is capable of reaching much further heights than Patrick Tuipulotu, now a veteran of 41 tests. Expect Vaa'i to become a Chiefs captain too.
Lock 5 - Josh Lord
Sam Whitelock (39) and Scott Barrett (33) will be either retired or at their career-end, while Lord and Vaa'i could become one of the great All Black locking combinations. To me, Lord was obviously a future All Black at the time of his 2020 Ranfurly Shield win, I just didn't expect his test debut to come so soon. Ian Foster capped him early, looking to the future, speaking volumes of his enormous potential, Lord could easily reach 100 tests and at 26, will be in career-best form come 2027.
Blindside Flanker - Luke Jacobson
We're currently seeing the formation of the next great loose forward trio in New Zealand. Luke Jacobson looks to be the player who will eventually win the 6 jersey long-term. Ethan Blackadder has been very injury prone, Shannon Frizell only has 16 caps and will be 33 in 2027, while Akira Ioane's running game is not suited to opponents like South Africa. Jacobson will be 30 in 2027, meaning he will be one of the most experienced players at this point and World Cups are won through experience.
Openside Flanker - Dalton Papali'i
Papali'i will also be a very experienced player at test level by 2027. Named the Blues' captain at just 24, Papali'i will celebrate his birthday during the '27 World Cup. Not only is Papali'i an experienced player now, but he's still young, he now has 12 caps and will have at least 70 come 2027. While some have pushed for Du Plessis Kirifi and Tom Christie to be All Blacks, Kirifi has not improved at all since his Super Rugby debut, while Christie lacks the all-round skills of Papali'i, which will only get better.
Below: Ardie Savea, Hurricanes captain as pictured in 2021. Photo: Troy Hockey.
Number 8 - Ardie Savea (Captain)
Dalton Papali'i playing openside moves Ardie Savea to number 8, the jersey he has found a home in. While World Cup squads tend to have an average age of around 27, Savea will be
34 come 2027 and you need some old heads to keep the young ones calm. Because Savea has signed with the Hurricanes through to 2025, that effectively closes his chances of a long-term career with Samoa under the new laws. Savea would henceforth deserve nothing more than to finish his career by lifting the Webb Ellis Cup.
Halfback - Folau Fakatava
While the halfback remains uncapped at this stage, it's quite clear he would have been picked in 2021 had it not been for injury. Finlay Christie (32), TJ Perenara (35), Brad Weber (36) and Aaron Smith (38) will all be well past the best of their career by 2027. As Christie has just 5 caps right now, Fakatava looks to be a better long-term investment. Halfbacks tend to play their best rugby from 25-30 and Fakatava will be bang in the middle of that in 2027. A very scary prospect to think he'll get even better.
First-Five - Richie Mo'unga
In 2027, Aidan Morgan (26), Rivez Reihana (27), Kaleb Trask (28), Fergus Burke (28) and Ruben Love (26) could all be contenders but none of them have yet had a solid run of consecutive starts at 10 in Super Rugby. The lack of depth at 10 in New Zealand right now is disgusting and until a decent contender proves themselves, I have no other choice but to name Mo'unga here. It's plausible that he'll still be playing too, he'll be 33 in 2027.
Left Wing - Uncapped player
New Zealand has an endless supply of outside backs to cap at both 11 at 14. Christian Cullen (26), Jonah Lomu (27), Joe Rokocoko (27), Julian Savea (26) and Waisake Naholo (27) are just a few names amongst many All Blacks outside backs who played their last test ridiculously young. When you consider that All Blacks outside backs are typically under 25 at a Rugby World Cup, the player who will wear this jersey in 2027 is still likely 16 years old or even younger.
Second-Five - Quinn Tupaea
Is David Havili the best second-five in New Zealand right now? Yes. Will Roger Tuivasa-Sheck make his All Blacks debut in 2022? Yes. Quinn Tupaea, however, will have likely fulfilled his potential by 2027, at 28 years old. While his decision-making remains raw now, Tupaea's current role as a project player will only see him get better. Experience, as stated before, is important at World Cups and Tupaea will be a very experienced, but still energetic by this point of his career.
Centre - Rieko Ioane
Anton Lienert-Brown has started to look fatigued after all these years at centre, will he still have this energy in 2027? Probably not, he comes across as a very humble man. Ioane, on the other hand, his personality trait is pure energy. Ioane will scarily, still be just 30 in 2027, he could potentially go as far as the 2031 Rugby World Cup. Ioane has proved throughout his career that he's willing to adapt in order to fit the All Blacks. If anyone is going to break Doug Howlett's record for most All Black tries, it's Ioane.
Right: Rieko Ioane, warming up for a Blues game in 2021. Photo: Max Sharp.
Right Wing - Uncapped player
Will Jordan does indeed have the potential to be one of the few outside backs to buck the trend of an early career finish, his body type is much more of a blank slate than Caleb Clarke or Leicester Fainga'anuku's. But going off history, Jordan's chances of still wearing a black jersey aged 29 are near remote. Jordan will likely play his last test in 2025, there's a new kid on the block every season at wing. For example - 2016, Rieko Ioane. 2017 - George Bridge. 2018 - Ben Lam. 2019 - Sevu Reece. 2020 - Caleb Clarke. 2021 - Jordan himself. Bridge, aged just 26, has already likely played his last test.
Fullback - Jordie Barrett
Barrett is in the fortunate position of fullback, a key decision-maker in the team, a serious member of a rugby team's spine. His all-round game has come-of-age out of sight in just the last year. Only three players listed above are aged 30 or more and the balance of experience is once again key. Barrett, younger than Damian McKenzie, has now been gifted the 15 jersey and has the character to keep it. Don't be surprised to se Barrett play his final test in 2027, as a key leader for the All Blacks.
Reserve Hooker - Asafo Aumua
Yes, Asafo Aumua is still 24 years old. He has however, played just 6 tests. Aumua won't want to be a second or third-choice player forever and has two young children already. With the ongoing power shift in rugby continuing to head north, Aumua could easily become one of the many All Blacks to take the money. However, Aumua's loyalty to the Hurricanes is clear, he will want to play for them for many more years and this will mean 2027 may be a 30-year-old Aumua's last season of test rugby.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Ollie Norris
A former loose forward, Norris converted to loosehead prop in his professional career. Though in 2022, Aidan Ross rightfully remains the Chiefs' first-choice number 1, the impact Norris brings on as a substitute is devastating, especially in big games. He also has a good attitude by all accounts, so this will likely lead to him continuing to improve. At 27, he will be at the peak of his career for the 2027 Rugby World Cup, opposition scrums will come to fear the big prop, with a 1.96m and 126kg stature.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Saula Ma'u
Ma'u debuted for Otago at only 19 years old in 2019, his potential is enormous. Though he has yet to feature for Otago again, his off-season improvements have taken him into a debut for the Highlanders this year already. If Ofa Tu'ungafasi does indeed retire ahead of the 2027 Rugby World Cup, Ma'u, also born in Tonga, shapes as a perfect impact player. Ma'u could end up being what Ben Tameifuna could have been, had Tameifuna fulfilled his potential, Ma'u is a great scrummager that isn't afraid to use his 1.94m and 142kg frame to carry either.
Reserve Lock - Sam Darry
Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu may still indeed be playing in 2027, but if they are indeed succeeded by Vaa'i and Lord as the first-choice locking combo, don't be surprised to see a younger and fresher player in an impact role. Barrett has sat on the bench ever since 2016, so won't be wanting to be a reserve much longer. Darry, who fast-tracked his career by leaving Canterbury to sign with the Blues, looks to inevitably play test rugby following his ongoing improvements, while his 2.03m height is a tantalising lineout prospect.
Devan Flanders brings down Dalton Papali'i in a powerful tackle, 2021. Photo: Max Sharp.
Reserve Loose Forward - Devan Flanders
While Hoskins Sotutu is a far superior player, he's a specialist number 8 and Ardie Savea has the best bet of taking over the captaincy long-term. Versatility has always been useful at Rugby World Cups, Adam Thomson and Victor Vito will tell you that first-hand. Flanders can cover both 6 and 8 and while he won't ever be one of the greats, his bulky frame will put the hurt into tired bodies off the bench. With a great game mentality, perhaps he'll captain the Hurricanes one day as well.
Reserve Halfback - Xavier Roe
As mentioned above, the current crop of halfbacks will all have certainly retired, barring Finlay Christie, by 2027. Christie will however, be coming towards the end of his career and it's a safer bet to go with Roe, who had a barnstorming start to Super Rugby in 2022, having previously outplayed TJ Perenara in a 2020 NPC fixture. He'll be 28 by the 2027 Rugby World Cup, so will be a very experienced player with at least 30 tests that you can trust to close games out.
Reserve First-Five - Uncapped Player
Whoever wears jersey 22 in 2027 is almost certainly uncapped as of the time of writing this article. Beauden Barrett will be 36 years old, while Damian McKenzie may want to return to Japan. Of all the first-fives new to Super Rugby right now, Fergus Burke has the best chance of challenging Mo'unga. The player who will wear this jersey is probably about 17 years old right now.
Reserve Utility Back - Uncapped Player
This is a similar situation to jersey 22. Whoever wears jersey 23 is almost certainly uncapped right now, this nation always has new backs coming through the ranks.
COMPLETE XV AND THEIR AGE IN NOVEMBER 2027:
Ethan de Groot, 29 years old
Samisoni Taukei'aho, 30 years old
Tamaiti Williams, 27 years old
Tupou Vaa'i, 27 years old
Josh Lord, 26 years old
Luke Jacobson, 30 years old
Dalton Papali'i, 30 years old
Ardie Savea, 34 years old (C)
Folau Fakatava, 27 years old
Richie Mo'unga, 33 years old
Uncapped player (around 21 years old)
Quinn Tupaea, 28 years old
Rieko Ioane, 30 years old
Uncapped player (around 25 years old)
Jordie Barrett, 30 years old
Asafo Aumua, 30 years old
Ollie Norris, 27 years old
Saula Ma'u, 27 years old
Sam Darry, 27 years old
Devan Flanders, 28 years old
Xavier Roe, 28 years old
Uncapped player (around 23 years old)
Uncapped player (around 23 years old)