Former All Black Kees Meeuws: Don’t rush Dane Coles back into the All Blacks

There's no rush to bring back Dane Coles, former All Black Kees Meeuws believes.

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There’s no rush to bring back Dane Coles, former All Black Kees Meeuws believes.

The All Blacks name their Rugby Championship squad next Monday. In the lead up, past All Blacks will combine to name a squad in a six-part Stuff series. Former prop Kees Meeuws kicks it off with a surprise or two in the front row, before 79-test lock Ian Jones chips in with the second rowers on Tuesday. 

Kees Meeuws’ picks:

Hookers
Codie Taylor
Liam Coltman

Props
Joe Moody
Owen Franks
Karl Tu’inukuafe
Jeffery Toomaga-Allen
Ofa Tuungafasi

Before anyone blows a gasket due to the absence of Dane Coles, step away from your keyboard, take a deep breath and check out Meeuws’ reasoning. 

It’s not that the 42-test prop doesn’t rate him, he’d just rather the 31-year-old isn’t unnecessarily rushed back from a knee injury, despite All Blacks coach Steve Hansen indicating the rake should be fit for the second half of the championship.

Prop Kees Meeuws played 42 tests for the All Blacks between 1998-2004.

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Prop Kees Meeuws played 42 tests for the All Blacks between 1998-2004.

Hansen named two hookers – Codie Taylor and Nathan Harris –  and five props in his 33-man squad for the French series in June, although Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman trained with the squad as cover for Harris (maternity leave). 

Meeuws is all for Coles training with the squad as a wider training group member, but he wants to see him playing in the Mitre 10 Cup before donning the black jersey again on the end-of-year tour. 

“Get him match fit. Let him get comfortable again in the role and the position. Get him game time. We’re in no rush. We’re a year out from the World Cup, it’s our goal to get him fit for the World Cup.

“Why are we rushing these quality players back when we can actually give them Mitre 10 Cup time, which isn’t as intensive as Super Rugby or test match rugby?”

With Coles out of the picture, Meeuws is keen to retain Crusader Codie Taylor as the starting hooker, while he’d rather Coltman over Harris. 

Hooker Liam Coltman has had few opportunities to represent his country.

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Hooker Liam Coltman has had few opportunities to represent his country.

Including an appearance off the bench in the third test against France in Dunedin last month, 28-year-old Coltman has just two tests to his name. 

“For me, Liam Coltman is probably the most underrated player,” Meeuws said. “Codie Taylor is bloody awesome. But Liam is just as good as Harris, but he just hasn’t been given the opportunities. 

“Those three guys are all great players, they’ve all got their own strengths that they bring to the game. I just think [Coltman] is a leader, he’s super tough and he’s underrated.”

Meeuws has also taken the selection axe to the props, dropping Tim Perry for 135kg behemoth Karl Tu’inukuafe, who replaced Perry for the French series after he tweaked a hamstring at a training camp. 

It completed a remarkable rise up the ranks for new Blues recruit Tu’inukuafe, who played in all three tests against Les Bleus, and helped bulldoze their scrum with his first act in the black jersey. 

“When he got on he actually impressed. He’s super powerful at scum time,” Meeuws said. 

“When you go up against the South Africans you want a devastating scrummager and he is that. Definitely he would have the lead, in my opinion.”

Karl Tu'inukuafe deserves to replace Tim Perry for the Rugby Championship, Kees Meeuws says.

DIANNE MANSON/GETTY

Karl Tu’inukuafe deserves to replace Tim Perry for the Rugby Championship, Kees Meeuws says.

While he was tempted to bring back Chiefs tighthead Nepo Laulala, who hasn’t played since breaking his forearm in March, Meeuws opted to stick with Ofa Tuungafasi and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen behind ace Owen Franks. 

“I’m sure they will be talking to Nepo because he is a bloody great scrummager, too. But he just needs some game time,” Meeuws said.

“One wise thing to do would be to keep him involved with the squad but to keep him playing in the Mitre 10 Cup, and then when they go on the end-of-year tour, then readdress the situation and go from there.

“They need two dedicated tightheads. Tighthead is harder to play, even though Toomaga-Allen can actually play loosehead if he needs to, at a push. Ofa does a lot around the field. Scrummaging wise, he’s getting better and better and better. I think they’ll stick with them.”

Kees Meeuws is sticking with an all-Crusaders front row of Owen Franks (L-R), Codie Taylor and Joe Moody for his ...

KAI SCHWOERER/GETTY

Kees Meeuws is sticking with an all-Crusaders front row of Owen Franks (L-R), Codie Taylor and Joe Moody for his starting preference in the Rugby Championship.

AT A GLANCE

2018 All Blacks Rugby Championship squad (as per six former All Blacks)

Codie Taylor
Liam Coltman
Joe Moody
Owen Franks
Karl Tu’inukuafe
Jeffery Toomaga-Allen
Ofa Tuungafasi

* Dane Coles and Nepo Laulala wider training

Read Stuff on Tuesday morning, when former All Blacks lock Ian Jones adds some second rowers to the mix.

 – Stuff

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This content was originally published here.