With one game against Italy to come before a quarter-final against Ireland, Japan or Scotland, what is likely to be the top All Blacks’ midfield of Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue is building nicely.
Second-five Lienert-Brown was again probably the pick of the All Blacks during the 71-9 victory over Namibia at Tokyo Stadium. He was recognised as the player of the match with a high-quality performance which is becoming his default setting. Need someone to carry the ball across the gain line? Lienert-Brown is your man.
Centre Goodhue, with 61 minutes after playing the first half against Canada, is getting to the level he needs to be at following his recovery from a hamstring strain, and, as the pair eye selection for the Italy match in Toyota City on Saturday, it was all a far cry from the last time they played together; the drubbing at the hands of the Wallabies in Perth.
The pair are forming a partnership that Steve Hansen will hope carries the All Blacks to the retention of the William Webb Ellis trophy and it’s based on trust, similar attacking instincts, and the ability to put teammates into space. It’s probably helpful too that they are both 24 years old and appear to have similarly laidback characteristics.
“He’s a real selfless player – he’ll always do the job for the team, and it’s a real pleasure playing with him,” Lienert-Brown said of his midfield mate.
“I’m just fortunate to be out on the park… at the moment the ball is falling my way. It’s a real honour.”
Neither player was particularly interested in talking about themselves after the victory over the game Namibians but their talent is abundantly clear. They were both superb for their respective Super Rugby teams this year and Lienert-Brown in particular impressed because for a long time the Chiefs didn’t know how to win.
“I guess you’re just confident and you trust your ability and what you see,” he said. “It’s good to have that confidence and call the right things.
“To be honest, it’s just doing the basics well. The best tries that we look back on are just draw and pass and the wingers score. That’s what we pride ourselves on.”
For Goodhue, the respect is mutual. “He’s a quality player; I love his workrate, it’s probably his greatest attribute,” he said of Lienert-Brown. “Outstanding, he’s lifting the standard.
“He’s always creating. He thoroughly deserved his player of the match award today. It’s exciting where he’s taking his game.
“I was able to get a few more touches compared with the Canada game which was nice. I was able to get the confidence up and now I’ll just have to wait and see [in terms of selection].”
If any of the 11 tries the All Blacks scored against Namibia typified where they want to get to here, it was TJ Perenara’s in the corner at the end following a freakish no-look pass from Brad Weber.
Lienert-Brown, though, revealed practising such moves at training is not recommended.
“That try was pretty special and it might be up for try of the year at this stage,” he said.
“To be honest if we do that stuff at training we’ll be told off; we’re big on the basics. That’s just being that little kid again – backing your instincts – and it’s cool to see.”
Rassie Erasmus has been forced to make an explanation after questions of racism were made about the Springbok:
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.
This content was originally published here.