BREAKING NEWS : All Blacks are now looking for the replacement of two fantastic star ahead of

Who can replace the iconic All Blacks duo Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick?

Looking back at the World Cup quarterfinals between New Zealand and Ireland, it’s difficult to determine what ultimately separated the two sides.

Perhaps it was New Zealand’s ability to be a little more clinical in key moments – their ability to be accurate under pressure to ensure they scored when half chances presented – and that they were able to stay onside and maintain their discipline to successfully defend 37 consecutive phases in the game’s last play.

Whatever enabled the All Blacks to win 28-24 in what was a genuinely magnificent rugby game, it is clear three months later that they will need to find another gear if they are to duplicate the feat of defeating Ireland when the two teams meet again in November of this year.

Ireland’s 38-17 victory against France in the two teams’ first game after being eliminated from last year’s World Cup demonstrated that they are not suffering from a post-tournament hangover and have instead become stronger since that defeat.

And key to their resurgence, or at least critical to their performance in Marseille, was the performance of Joe McCarthy in the second row.

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The 22-year-old was unmissable, such was his work rate and ability to damage the French on both sides of the ball. His presence gave the Irish pack not only an increased muscularity and dynamism, but a level of intimidation that stunned their opponents.

There were other factors that enabled Ireland to play with a level of skill and intensity that was equal to, if not better than, their performance against the All Blacks, but there is no doubt that the impact of McCarthy was significant, not only for what he brought, but in his ability to accentuate the qualities of his locking partner Tadhg Beirne

Modern rugby is won in the trenches and a thundering athlete such as McCarthy can have a greater transformational effect than the discovery of a twinkle-toed, goal-kicking fly-half.

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If the All Blacks are to be a force in 2024 and have a genuine hope of beating both Ireland and France, as well as South Africa, then they are going to need to find at least one, if not two second-rows who have raw power, athleticism and soft skills

In the last 30 minutes of the World Cup quarter-final, the All Blacks had three locks on the field in Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock – the former providing a ball-carrying thump and destructive energy, while the latter two were recognised as the greatest second-row combination New Zealand has ever produced.

The three of them, with Barrett at blindside once Whitelock came off the bench, provided a unique mix of scrummaging force, lineout supremacy, and overall skill on the field.

What makes Ireland’s discovery of McCarthy so poignant is that, while Ireland has discovered a young bruiser with enormous potential in their second row, New Zealand will be casting a wide net throughout Super Rugby in the hopes of finding someone to replace Retallick and Whitelock.

If the All Blacks are to be a force in 2024 and have a serious shot of overcoming both Ireland and France, whom they will encounter in successive weekends in November, as well as South Africa—who

They will play back-to-back in the Republic in the Rugby Championship, so they will require at least one, if not two, second-rowers with raw power, athleticism, and soft skills.

What is clear is that the All Blacks must identify a player who can not only compensate for the loss of Retallick and Whitelock, but will also provide the team with new energy, dynamism, and physicality to propel them to the next level.

Prior to the start of Super Rugby, most commentators believe Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu is the leading option to fill the position.

Tuipulotu, who weighs 128kg (20st 2lb) and stands 2.02m (6ft 7in), adds heft to any squad he plays for while also maintaining a cool, serene demeanor.

Despite being capped for the first time in 2014 and having played 43 Tests, Tuipulotu has never been able to consistently offer the crunch and punch that he does in Super Rugby.

The top locks of the recent decade, including Retallick, Whitelock, Maro Itoje, Eben Etzebeth, Paul O’Connell, and Courtney Lawes, have all been fiercely combative and destructive, making an early impact in Test rugby.

He’s been hot and cold for the All Blacks, and now that Tuipulotu is 31, there’s debate about whether he’s set to blossom or if he’s passed his prime.

When asked if Tuipulotu will be on the All Blacks’ radar in 2024, his Blues coach, Vern Cotter, replied, “I think they’ll be looking very closely at him.” He’s exactly what they need with a few of key players leaving.”

However, the argument that Tuipulotu may not be cut out to be a Test great is more compelling.

What distinguishes the great locks is their mentality – a drive to make their physical presence known and force themselves on the game.

The top locks of the recent decade, including Retallick, Whitelock, Maro Itoje, Eben Etzebeth, Paul O’Connell, and Courtney Lawes, have all been fiercely combative and destructive, making an early impact in Test rugby.

They have all carried a belief that they can dominate and intimidate, something which Tuipulotu has never been able to emulate. The fact he’s going to miss at least the next 10 weeks with a broken jaw picked up in a pre-season clash makes it doubtful that he will emerge as the New Zealand equivalent of McCarthy in 2024.

Tupou Vai’i is another frontline contender, having been a squad regular since 2020. The 24-year-old Chiefs lock, at 1.98m (6ft 6in) and 118kg (18st 8in), is of almost identical dimensions to McCarthy and similarly rangy, mobile and athletic.

He’s quick enough to play at blindside, which he surprisingly did in the opening game of the World Cup against France, but again, Vai’i hasn’t yet shown the same destructive tendencies that differentiate the best locks in the world game and it may be that for the foreseeable future, he remains an attractive option to sit on the All Blacks bench given his ability to play both second-row and back-row.

It is the third contender, Josh Lord, who is arguably the player of greatest intrigue.

While Lord is the whole package – an effective ball carrier, a disruptor, a tackler and a presence in the contact zones as well as a connector in the wider channels – coaches are drawn to him because of what he can offer at the lineout

Lord is a different shape and style of athlete to Tuipulotu and Vai’i. He’s 2.03m (6ft 8in), 114kg (17st 13lb) and an old-fashioned, spring-heeled beanpole who is much tougher than his slight frame suggests.

His prime skill-set is his ability in the air, where he’s becoming increasingly adept at stealing opposition lineout ball. He’s also quick and while he’s not necessarily powerful, he’s all elbows and knees, making him hard for tacklers to bring down quickly.

As his long-time coach at Taranaki, Neil Barnes, said when Lord was unexpectedly called up by the All Blacks in late 2021: “He’s very explosive, and has a very good skill-set, so he has got all the attributes to make a modern-day lock.

“He doesn’t shirk anything. He’s just a good country boy that gets on with it. Physically he has got it all there to be a really good player. The thing that has impressed me is that he is a modest, rural boy who just takes things in his stride. He’s been brought up the right way, on the back of hard work.”

While Lord is the complete package – an effective ball carrier, a disruptor, a tackler, a presence in the contact zones, and a connector in the wider channels – coaches are drawn to him because of what he can offer at the lineout, and the All Blacks are excited about the prospect of developing the world’s best-performing set piece pack by 2024.

They already have one of the world’s top scrums, and forwards coach Jason Ryan wants to create a lineout that can not only offer the All Blacks with the offensive platform they need, but also disturb opponents and deny them possession and opportunity.

The All Blacks’ strongest performances in recent years have been built on set-piece supremacy, and the link between the team’s success and the lineout’s effectiveness is apparent.

According to the statistics, the lineout is the best spot to attack, therefore domination there – both with and without the ball – determines the outcome of every Test.

And so it may be the relatively unknown Lord, with his natural reach and work rate, who transforms the All Blacks this year and provides them with the tools they need to defeat Ireland, France, and South Africa.

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