Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has been linked with a bombshell return to the Sydney Roosters as his path to regular gametime with the All Blacks continues to be blocked.
The Dally M winner’s switch to rugby has been a success overall, earning two Test caps off the bench after helping the Blues reach the Super Rugby Pacific final.
But the inside centre’s Rugby World Cup dream remains very much up in the air following Jordie Barrett’s outstanding performance at Eden Park and Anton Lienert-Brown’s imminent return from a long-term shoulder injury.
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David Havili wore No.12 for much of the Rugby Championship but the door appeared to creak open for Tuivasa-Sheck when he was ruled out of Saturday’s Test against the Wallabies with concussion.
But instead of giving Tuivasa-Sheck his starting shot, All Blacks coach Ian Foster opted to switch fullback Barrett to the midfield, which proved a smash hit.
It leaves Tuivasa-Sheck as probably the fourth-choice inside centre when all players are available.
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“Little whisper is that there is a contract on the table for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck back at the Roosters,” All Blacks legend Sir John Kirwan told The Breakdown, available to stream on Stan Sport.
“We’re just running out of time, so I want to see Roger get a decent crack… the northern tour, he probably shouldn’t play against Japan, we need to see him against Scotland or Wales where it’s a big Test match…
“What I’ve noticed is that our kicking game, our short kicking game, our manipulative attacking game, has now gone to the foot of 12, so he’s going to have to show us that on the northern tour as well, that kicking game. We know he can step.
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“It’s a timing issue, I mean I hope he doesn’t go back to the Roosters, I hope he stays for a few more years yet.”
Another Kiwi great, Jeff Wilson, agreed that NRL clubs would be circling.
“That’d be disappointing if that’s the case,” Wilson said.
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“I can understand there’d be frustration around this. We certainly haven’t seen the best of him on a rugby field yet because he hasn’t had the opportunity.
“But like you say, time is running out and where do those opportunities lie?”
Tuivasa-Sheck’s status is a hot topic in New Zealand and World Cup winner Israel Dagg told SENZ that he needed to change positions to stand a chance of nailing down a regular black jersey.
“I don’t think he stands anywhere in the midfield if I’m completely honest,” Dagg, a former winger/fullback said.
“He’s had time there with the Blues, we’ve seen glimpses, but… I’d just love to see him go onto the wing. He is fantastic in the air, which is a huge factor of playing on the wing
“Defensively, I think he’d be outstanding on the wing. His edge defence would be world class, his talk wouldn’t be a problem and speed and footwork is the biggest asset he offers. When Roger Tuivasa-Sheck came back to New Zealand, that’s the first thing that sprung to my mind – seeing this bloke in open space, breaking ankles left, right and centre. I was like, ‘wow…’ At the moment at 12, he’s not able to do that.
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“He’s wearing a headband around his ears – protecting his ears – because he knows he’s going to have to be a bulldozer for 80 minutes.
“I don’t want that from Roger. I want to see Roger with ball in space, kids emulating him running around the backyard. That’s where I want to see Roger and I reckon that’s where he’ll have the most damage.
“Right now, particularly with Jordie playing so well and Anton coming back, I just can’t see him going forward and having an opportunity to cement a spot in the centres. So, if he’s going to have any chance of getting back in there, it has to be in a different position.”
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