All Black midfield ‘puzzle’ gets another reshuffle for today’s test

By Jamie Wall

Anton Lienert-Brown, Ian Foster and Jack Goodhue

All Black assistant coach Ian Foster had a blunt message yesterday for anyone confused by the team’s midfield makeup: we know what’s going on, so don’t worry about it.

After a decade of having Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith playing second five and centre, the All Blacks midfield combination has become the most interchangeable part of the team since the last Rugby World Cup, and we’ll see Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue pair up today against Namibia. 

“The puzzle’s yours, not ours” Foster said, referring to the hefty contingent of NZ media at the team’s hotel in Maihama.

“That’s the easiest way to say it. I know there’s lots of speculation about it, and you think we’re always trying to hide something. But we’ve always said…we reckon we’ve got five great midfielders”

Meanwhile, Goodhue was full of praise for Lienert-Brown - leading the Chiefs man to suggest he owed Goodhue lunch.

The All Blacks play Namibia at Tokyo Stadium, the same place they played Japan on last year’s end of year tour. The Japanese dream run at the tournament continued last night in Toyota City, where they beat Manu Samoa 38-19.

It sets up a tantalising match next weekend with Scotland, which may well end up being an elimination test. In the other match last night, England beat Argentina 39-10 in yet another game marred by a red card. Pumas lock Tomas Lavanini was ordered from the field in the first half for a high tackle on Owen Farrell.

The result means that it’s highly likely the Argentines’ tournament is all but over.

Kickoff from Tokyo is at 5:45pm NZT.