By JIM KAYES, The Dominion Post
Friday, 09 May 2008
Josh Kronfeld chuckles as he spends about two seconds thinking about it.
"Well, you can't really go past Richie," he says when asked to given his views on the contenders to be among the All Blacks loose forwards.
That's Richie McCaw - All Blacks captain and the name printed in ink on Graham Henry's team sheet. Kronfeld, who played 54 tests for New Zealand and works as a physiotherapist in Dunedin, likes the look of most of the loose forwards in the Super 14.
He loved Scott Waldrom's combative approach for the Hurricanes last week and was delighted to see McCaw outplayed by Tanerau Latimer when the Chiefs upset the Crusaders a few weeks ago.
"Everyone's offering something. Daniel Braid is going reasonably well for the Blues and I loved watching Waldrom last week. He really got amongst it," Kronfeld said."And Latimer reminded Richie you need to be pushing all the time when you are playing in the big games.It's great when you see these other faces starting to shine, but they are not in Richie's class. He's still the best."
Kronfeld is just as convinced that Chris Masoe should not be McCaw's understudy, though he concedes the Hurricanes loose forward's ability to play all three positions helps.
"Masoe's not the answer if Richie's not there. He is not a No7, but with him covering all three positions he does allow the coaches to have more cover elsewhere."
Kronfeld is also firmly of the view that test jerseys are not there to be given out willy-nilly. There are, he thinks, too many one-test wonders.It's why he agrees with former All Blacks skipper Todd Blackadder that Crusaders flanker Kieran Read has been playing well, but disagrees that he should be picked ahead of Jerry Collins.
"I've liked what Read has been doing but maybe he needs to wait till he's really playing better than Jerry, or Jerry is injured.We don't need to be picking players just so we can try them out."
Like most people, Kronfeld was impressed with Sione Lauaki's performance against the Crusaders, which mirrored his tremendous game for the Chiefs against them last year. But he also wonders why the No8 can't reproduce that sort of form every week.
"If you could get him to play as he does against the Crusaders every week, he would be the All Blacks No8, but Rodney [So'oialo] is just so consistent.You're better having a guy like him, who plays well every week and does something really special sometimes, than a guy like Lauaki."
The same, he says, applies to the Crusaders' Mose Tuiali'i.
"He's a bit bulkier and playing a more physical game than he has before, a bit like Rodney."
But Kronfeld is not convinced that the status quo for the black jerseys numbered six, seven and eight needs to change.
- Richard Loe's front row: Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Greg Somerville
- Ian Jones' locks: Ali Williams, Brad Thorn
- Josh Kronfeld's loose forwards: Richie McCaw, Rodney So'oialo, Jerry Collins