Tu'inukuafe's rise recognised by Almanack

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Lynn McConnell     09 Mar 2019     Getty Images

Published by Mower.

The extraordinary rise of loosehead prop Karl Tu'inukuafe has been recognised by the editors of the New Zealand Rugby Almanack by his choice as one of the five players of the year, and as starting prop in their Almanack XV.


The other four players of the year were: James Parsons, Scott Barrett, Damian McKenzie and Ardie Savea.

Coming from obscurity, without a contract and only a week-by-week connection with the Chiefs in Investec Super Rugby, Tu'inukuafe played 13 Tests in his first season and headed the player regarded as the best loosehead in the world, Joe Moody, for the honour. Moody managed only six Tests during the year.

In an otherwise predictable choice, the selectors opted for Ben Smith at fullback rather than on the wing where he played most of his Tests last year.

The Almanack XV was: 1.Karl Tu'inukuafe, 2.Codie Taylor, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Samuel Whitelock, 5.Brodie Retallick, 6.Liam Squire, 7.Ardie Savea, 8.Kieran Read (captain), 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Beauden Barrett, 11.Rieko Ioane, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Jack Goodhue, 14.Waisake Naholo, 15.Ben Smith.

Substitutes: 16.James Parsons, 17.Ofa Tuungafasi, 18.Angus Ta'avao, 19.Scott Barrett, 20.Sam Cane, 21.TJ Perenara, 22.Richie Mo'unga, 23.Damian McKenzie.

The Happenings section of the Almanack is always a delight for the statistical achievements that are often overlooked in mainstream media coverage of the game.

One item demonstrated the impact of Beauden Barrett at international level. By achieving the top scoring status in world rugby last year he became only the second player, and first All Black, to finish top in consecutive seasons since the introduction of the professional game. It was the third consecutive year he kicked most conversions in Test rugby and he became the first first five-eighths to score four tries in a Test after his effort against Australia at Eden Park. His 25 tries, as a first five-eighths, is the most in Test history – 23 of them being scored in the last three years.

Putting that record into perspective, World Rugby player of the year, and first five-eighths, Johnny Sexton hasn't scored any tries in the last three years. Barrett's 30 points against Australia was the most against them by any player.

In making their annual review of the season, the editors highlighted the neglect of the dropped goal in New Zealand rugby. Astonishingly, there were no dropped goals recorded in first-class matches in 2018 in New Zealand.

It had been 101 years since that last happened, and that when only 15 first-class games were played in 1917 during the First World War. Beauden Barrett kicked two during the All Blacks' northern tour and they were the sum total on the first-class record.

"Considering defence is much practised, analysed and coached these days, it is surprising to us that the dropped goal is not an option against these well-set defences, particularly post the set pieces," the editors said.

Evidence showed that dropped goals could have changed results in the dying moments of at least three games last year: the Wellington Test against South Africa, the Mitre 10 Cup final when Auckland declined a drop kick chance when the scores were tied in the final minute, resulting in 20 minutes of overtime, and the Heartland Lochore Cup final when Wairarapa Bush chose not to attempt a shot which would have forced extra time. They lost the final by three points.

In recognition of the increasing place of women in the New Zealand game the editors have extended their coverage of the women's game in the Almanack, including their women's players of the year, Kendra Cocksedge and Sarah Goss, and their Almanack XV, for the first time. 

Purchase the 2019 Rugby Almanack at all good book sellers.

The team was:
1.Phillipa Love, 2.Fiao'o Faamausili (captain), 3.Aldora Itunu, 4.Eloise Blackwell, 5.Charmaine Smith, 6.Lesley Elder, 7.Sarah Goss, 8.Aroha Savage, 9.Kendra Cocksedge, 10.Ruahei Demant, 11.Portia Woodman, 12.Kelly Brazier, 13.Stacey Waaka, 14.Renee Wickliffe, 15.Selica Winiata.

Substitutes: 16.Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, 17.Leilani Perese, 18.Aleisha Nelson, 19.Jackie Pater-Fereti, 20.Charmaine McMenamin, 21.Kristina Sue, 22.Chelsea Alley, 23.Michaela Blyde.