Roger Tuivasa-Sheck needs versatility to stay in All Blacks, say ex-greats


Roger Tuivasa-Sheck showed some of his running game with a move to the right wing for Auckland against Taranaki.

Andrew Cornaga/www.photosport.nz

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck showed some of his running game with a move to the right wing for Auckland against Taranaki.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s quest to be a World Cup All Black could be reliant on his ability to diversify his game, according to some New Zealand greats.

Former All Blacks Sir John Kirwan, Mils Muliaina and Justin Marshall felt Tuivasa-Sheck’s tricky transition from rugby league hadn’t been helped by him taking on the demanding No 12 jersey.

While the former Sydney Roosters and Warriors star has given a firm denial of any return to the NRL, Tuivasa-Sheck’s late prematch switch from the midfield to the wing for Auckland in the last round of NPC at Eden Park could be telling.

Sky Sport

Auckland roar back from 17-3 halftime deficit to beat Taranaki at Eden Park.

Tuivasa-Sheck has made just two brief appearances off the bench for the All Blacks this season at a time when the midfield stocks have been strained by injuries.

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To see him suddenly go to the wing for his province hints at bigger things, according to Kirwan, a right wing legend who believes All Blacks coach Ian Foster was probably behind that.

“A phone call from Fossie to the coaches for sure,” Kirwan told the latest episode of The Breakdown on Sky Sports.

“If you have played your whole league career at fullback wouldn’t you want to play at fullback?

“I think it’s a positive either way … look at all our backs now, who doesn’t cover a couple of positions?”

Kirwan felt the looming selection for the end of year tour where the All Blacks play Japan, Wales, Scotland and England, could be telling for the cross-code star.

Tuivasa-Sheck could face even more competition.

“I think with Anton Lienert-Brown coming back as a specialist, if he (Tuivasa-Sheck) needs to go on that (end of year) tour, he needs to play two positions,” Kirwan said.

“But I want to see his composure in a test match from the start.”

Kirwan noted there was perhaps even greater competition on the wing given the proven skills out wide of Will Jordan, Caleb Clarke, and Sevu Reece.

Former All Blacks halfback Marshall felt 12 was a hard position for someone of Tuivasa-Sheck’s footwork ability to work his way into rugby, so often getting the ball and opposition player at the same time. It also wasn’t a great position to showcase his superb counter-attacking abilities.

“There’s a lot of congestion with line speed now around 9, 10 and 12. Give him some opportunities to play across the field. The guy’s a superstar, I just want to see him play,” Marshall said.

Marshall also added some doubts about Tuivasa-Sheck’s kicking game which is a key requirement at 12 in the cuirrent game.

“As a 12, the All Blacks have been massively benefitted in the last few test matches by a 12 who can kick,” Marshall said.

“You’ve got to be incredibly balanced as that player now – be a first receiver, be a hard carrier, be a kicking option and defensively shut down that zone.

“You’ve got to have all those requirements. I’m just wondering whether or not that’s too much for a guy that’s just trying to find his way and love the game again.”

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has been restricted to a couple of cameos off the bench for the All Blacks.

Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has been restricted to a couple of cameos off the bench for the All Blacks.

Muliaina didn’t buy into Kirwan’s theory around intervention from Foster, feeling the playoffs stakes were too high in Auckland’s game to risk that. Auckland eventually beat Taranaki 38-24 in heavy rain.

But he saw some benefits for the player.

“It’s always a hard transition, this is a specialist role playing at 12, it’s a hard position to play. He wants a bit of freedom and I think this just gives him a bit of an opportunity to enjoy his rugby,” Muliaina said.

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