All Black World Cup squad, who will make the cut?

9:48 am on 30 August 2015

OPINION: The selection of the All Blacks backline for the World Cup is still prompting plenty of debate on the day of the squad naming.

All Black wing Charles Piutau

All Black wing Charles Piutau. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The All Black selectors will name their World Cup squad this evening (6:30pm) and it's likely they'll be discussing a few of their options right up until then.

The outside back options have prompted plenty of debate with a number of prominent players likely to miss out.

So we asked some of Radio New Zealand's sports contributors who they'd pick.

They were asked to name 14 backs (it is expected that the 31-man squad will contain 17 forwards and 14 backs), and give an explanation for some of their selections.

Barry Guy

Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade, Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Julian Savea, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ben Smith, Charles Piutau and Israel Dagg.

I've gone for just two halfbacks because I feel Smith and Perenara are so far ahead of the rest.

History has shown there must be three first-fives and I've included Slade there and he can also cover out wide or at fullback.

The top backline for me would be the same one that played Australia at Eden Park and I'm hoping they stay fit as that seven is probably the best around.

I'd expect them to play most of the important games.

I've included Israel Dagg because of his positional kicking which will be a factor in a World Cup tournament in England.

However I'd still have Ben Smith starting at fullback in the knockout stages.

Stephen Hewson

Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Julian Savea, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ben Smith, Colin Slade, Charles Piutau and Israel Dagg.

For me Israel Dagg makes it as coach Steve Hansen seems to have a soft spot for him and has given him every chance to prove himself.

Cory Jane misses out as he now seems injury prone at this stage of his career and x-factor wise has been overtaken by Nehe Milner-Skudder who many sides will know little about.

Only two halfbacks - Dan Carter and Colin Slade can both play there at a push and a replacement can always be called up if someone is ruled out of the tournament.

All Black fullback Israel Dagg

All Black fullback Israel Dagg. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Matt Chatterton

Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Dan Carter, Colin Slade, Beauden Barrett, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Sonny Bill Williams, Julian Savea, Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Charles Piutau.

I've selected Beauden Barrett but on current form only see him as a utility until he can control the backline better. That means Slade is second-choice first five and back up halfback/fullback/wing/everything.

No room for reliable Ryan Crotty but SBW still needs more time to gel with Carter.

I'm leaving Nehe Milner-Skudder out over Jane and Dagg, Milner-Skudder looks lost when running back on defence and hasn't been tested under the high ball - which is a concern against Northern Hemisphere teams and South Africa. Jane and Dagg are both confident under the high ball and solid on defence, plus Dagg's massive punt will be beneficial in the territory battle.

Vinnie Wylie

Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Lima Sopoaga, Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Julian Savea, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ben Smith, Israel Dagg.

I've gone for three halfbacks with Kerr-Barlow making it ahead of Andy Ellis as I felt he was ineffective against Samoa.

If fit Kerr-Barlow offers something different with more size and physicality.

Sopoaga is my third first five because if Carter gets injured his goal-kicking is more consistent than Barrett's at the moment and he showed good composure and organisation against South Africa.

Charles Piutau has performed well for the All Blacks but I think having Dagg's kicking game and experience could prove valuable at the World Cup. On recent form he won't start but he has pedigree and if he can rediscover something close to his best he'd be hard to leave out.

Milner-Skudder demands inclusion after two eye-catching performances against Australia. Breaks the line in a way no other player on the team can, bar Naholo if he were fit. That x-factor gets him in ahead of Jane and Piutau.

Koro Vaka'uta

Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade, Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Julian Savea, Charles Piutau, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Cory Jane, Ben Smith.

Cory Jane is the fourth-ranked wing for me but someone who won't make too many mistakes if needed, plus he can play fullback.

Piutau was the form winger before Milner-Skudder was given his chance, so he should be included also.

Unlucky to miss out are Lima Sopoaga, who played just the one Test which may count against him no matter how impressive, but was tempted to pick him above Barrett.

Ryan Crotty is consistent, but isn't a game breaker.

Israel Dagg (too little, too late and is often found out on defence), Tawera Kerr-Barlow (loses out on the numbers game), Waisake Naholo (wouldn't risk the "miracle recovery).

All Black wing Nehe Milner-Skudder

All Black wing Nehe Milner-Skudder Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Joe Porter

Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade, Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Julian Savea, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Charles Piutau, Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo.

Taking Waisake Naholo is a risk.

This is a man who was recently diagnosed with a broken leg that was expected to sideline him for three months, meaning he was unlikely to be ready for the World Cup.

However after receiving some "alternative" treatment in his homeland, the Fiji-born flyer was declared to have made a "miracle" recovery and should now be ready for the All Blacks third game of the tournament.

Naholo has the x-factor and is unknown to international defences.

He also was Super Rugby's leading try-scorer and makes massive metres for his teams.

I think Hansen should take him.

Milner-Skudder is, like Naholo, another game-breaker, with a vastly different skill set.

His fast feet bamboozle defences and he should waltz right into this squad.

Israel Dagg and Cory Jane miss out.