Will The Departure Of All Black Veterans Matter After 2017?

Three All Black veterans could be heading offshore after next years British & Irish Lions tour. Will their departure have the impact on the team that some think?

All Black coach Steve Hansen stands to lose over 160 caps worth of experience. The men in question are: Aaron Cruden, Israel Dagg, and Ben Smith.

There would certainly be a lot riding on the decisions that these men are going to have make. If they go, chances to play for the All Blacks in the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan are all but gone.

Having said that, they’ve all given a lot to the All Blacks in the past few years, and like others have before them, are well within their rights to go and make some big money.

Aaron Cruden & Israel Dagg Face The Tough Decisions

For Aaron Cruden and Israel Dagg in particular, both were a part of the 2011 Rugby World Cup win with the All Blacks. However, both men missed out on having a shot at going ‘back to back’ due to injury and non-selection respectively.

Since returning to the All Blacks in 2016, both Cruden and Dagg have been instrumental in the teams success. Cruden has been a bench-warmer for the most part, but his calmness and ability to lead a tiring back line around the park late in the game has been impressive. Dagg has typically been one of the first try scorers for the All Blacks, particularly those played in New Zealand.

In the background, Ben Smith has been his typical self, having positive influence on the game, particularly under the high ball. So far, Smith is the only one of the three not to sit down and talk business with clubs based in Europe.

Dagg sat down with Irish-based club Leinster last week, and Cruden has been linked to a high-dollar shift to French-club Montpellier. When asked by media, Cruden admitted he was still considering his options.

I’ve just put that on the back burner until after this tour. I want to play good rugby and represent my country well before I think about any other opportunities elsewhere.

Would The Departures Matter Too Much?

But in all honesty, will the All Blacks be too greatly affected if these three men to decide to leave? From an experience standpoint maybe, more than 160 caps combined in fact, but that is about all.

By 2017, new players will have entered the leadership group, and strong seasons in Super Rugby will see carryover form into the International season.

This is not to downplay the skill, talent, and experience of the three in question at all. They are three of the best players in their position, but the All Blacks won’t fall apart if they decide to leave. Dagg, Cruden, and to a lesser extent Smith, all know this within themselves as well.

All Black Coach Steve Hansen Keen For Signatures

All Black coach Steve Hansen has stated to the media that he would like to see all three men re-sign with the NZRU. Why? To be available for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and Hansen believes they have the fitness to do it.

According to a column on Stuff.co.nz this week, Hansen told Israel Dagg that he was a “vital ingredient” to the team. Of all the players, Dagg is poised to get the most lucrative contract from a club in Europe, and that will be tempting for the veteran.

Who Can Fill The Void?

Moving forward, there is only going to be more options for Hansen in these positions.

Damian McKenzie is a potential full-time option at fullback. Should he progress as expected, McKenzie could also fill in at first five if Aaron Cruden decides to head off-shore.

James Lowe is progressing towards a spot in the All Blacks some time in the next few years, and the chirpy winger also has an amazing left foot kick. He could find a spot on the wing in the absence of Dagg and Smith, alongside another good option in the form of Waisake Naholo. Rieko Ioane can play on the wing, and his ability under the high ball should only improve with regular outings in Super Rugby.

Beauden Barrett has already re-signed with the NZRU through until the next World Cup, but Highlanders sensation Lima Sopoaga is another credible option.

All Black Veterans Face A Summer Of Ponder

In conclusion, the All Blacks will be just fine if these three veterans decide to leave. For the likes of Israel Dagg, who scored his 10th try of his comeback year during the 24-19 victory over France, and Aaron Cruden who’s been such a big part of this side over the years, the summer break will provide a lot of time for pondering future plans.

The All Blacks will now take a well-deserved break over the New Zealand summer before hosting the British & Irish Lions tour next year.

“Main photo credit”