Liam Napier and Toby Robson cast their eyes over the All Blacks' end-of-year tour.
PLAYER OF THE TOUR
Cory Jane has confirmed his status as the best wing in world rugby. If he's not scoring tries, he's creating them for others. Classy in Edinburgh, brilliant in Rome, quiet in Cardiff, but ridiculously skilful at Twickenham. Quite simply a joy to watch this bloke play rugby.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Julian Savea sits at the top of a pretty good pile of newcomers. He gets the nod because he improved with every outing, while other contenders, like Aaron Smith, tailed off at the back end of the season. Savea scores tries in bunches, and is strong, fast and increasingly skilful. Twelve tries in nine tests is on a par with the greats. A big career lies ahead.
It's hard to see lock Ali Williams or loose forward Adam Thomson, pictured, playing for the All Blacks again. Thomson is heading overseas, while Williams is well past his prime. Williams has had a solid career but it will take a miraculous return to form for the Blues if he is to remain on the fringes. Steve Hansen's blind faith must be running thin. Williams is still good in the lineout but a modern lock needs a lot more strings to his bow.
With an additional front-rower on this tour and on the bench, prop Ben Franks was something of a spare wheel. Loosehead Wyatt Crockett didn't exactly dominate at scrum time, despite his coach's continuing assertion of his prowess. And Tawera Kerr-Barlow raised as many questions as answers about his ability at this level. And wing Hosea Gear has fallen behind Savea and Jane in the pecking order. Gear has been brilliant at times this season but consistency continues to be his work-on.
BEST AND WORST MOMENTS
Andrew Hore takes out the worst by some distance for his brain fade in Cardiff. It'll live long in the memory for all the wrong reasons.
Liam Messam, pictured, capped the best moment when he scored the try of the year - against Wales in a sweeping counter-attack that displayed everything good about All Black rugby as the backs and forwards combined. It's a pity the IRB try of the year nominations came out in the days beforehand.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Is Richie McCaw now the greatest All Black of all time?