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Donald’s All Blacks XV smokey for 2023 World Cup


While the 2023 Rugby World Cup is still 10 months away, former All Black Stephen Donald has predicted a smokey to join the New Zealand squad in France.

Several positions within Ian Foster’s 33-man squad will be up for grabs following the upcoming Super Rugby season, with a particular interest in the three travelling halfbacks.

With 114 caps, Aaron Smith is assumed to claim the first available spot however the remaining two are set to cause selectors headaches.

TJ Perenara (Achilles) and Folau Fakatava (ACL) sustained lengthy injuries in the All Blacks’ end-of-year Northern Tour and will race against the clock to return in time for selection while Brad Weber and Finlay Christie are also in the mix.

However, Donald believes an up-and-coming Hurricane may be the nation’s next bolter.

“My smokey is Cam Roigard, (he) could well and truly be in the mix,” Donald told SENZ’s The Run Home.

“He’s a bigger body, defensively bigger, strong around the fringes and he’s going to get the opportunity to start every game for the Hurricanes this year.

“We saw what he did in the NPC … maybe this is the bolter.”

Roigard recently made the step up to the international arena after a successful NPC campaign with Counties Manukau, representing the All Blacks XV in their 47-19 victory over Ireland A.

While Donald tips the 22-year-old to slide into the mix, he has reservations surrounding who else will make the cut.

“I’m thinking Fakatava and Perenara are going to struggle fitness-wise to really in consideration if we’re being realistic,” Donald added.

“Therefore you’ve got Smith obviously starting and then you could go Christie and Weber but for me, the three of them are absolute like-for-like (players).

“The reason I’ve always said that Perenara’s days were never done was because he’s different to all of them.

“He’s probably more like Fakatava, so maybe it’s a Smith, Weber, Roigard three.”

The All Blacks completed their 2022 season with eight wins, four losses and a draw and will look to carry their winning form into the following international season as they prepare to compete for the Cup.

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