Tony Brown has added solidarity and leadership to the Highlanders this season. He is a reliable tackler and kicker unlike most of the other candidates to make the All Black Rugby World Cup squad. Despite being 36 years old, he offers more than most of the other candidates who are too erratic or injured. Brown is a southern man through and through and has a big ticker unlike so many of his young contemporaries.
He played the last of his 18 All Blacks tests in 2001 and would have played and scored more than 171 test points if his career didn’t coincide with Carlos Spencer and Andrew Mehrtens.
Dan Carter will play most of the crucial matches leaving a spot for someone who is steady and does the basics well to unleash the All Blacks star studded backline against the minnows.
We have needed a Tony Brown some would argue in the last three World Cups where we were guilty of losing our heads in the pressure cooker situation, especially when kicking is involved. Rugby World Cup winning teams have experienced players, remember England in 2003 with their geriatric forward pack? Remember Brad Thorn is 36, if you are good enough, you are young enough!
What about the other options?
There are no obvious players to be the backup to Dan Carter.
Stephen Donald and Mike Delaney have been struggling with injuries. Both of these players have struggled for consistent game time and performances for the underperforming Chiefs this season.
Stephen Brett has been playing well with the Blues, but has a reputation for being flaky, inconsistent and is a mixed bag on defence.
Luke McAlister is a frontrunner, but he has been playing at second five eighth and not first five eighth. He is one of the better goalkickers though.
Piri Weepu hasn’t returned to Super Rugby from injury yet and it will be interesting to see if he is seen as mainly a halfback or a utility? He is a good goalkicker and can play first five eighth, so he would be brilliant off the bench, but no one knows if or when he is going to return to his best.
Colin Slade was a strong contender but now that he has broken his jaw for the second time this season and he will miss most of the season, but his vulnerability to injury could outweigh his strong kicking and running game. He is in my opinion the best allround candidate.
Robbie Robinson his probably too green at this stage. His goalkicking is a mixed bag, but he does have a good running game. He could be a bit small against more physical opponents.
Aaron Cruden has been injured. He is too small against big teams and his punting needs improvement. He has a great running game and has improved his goalkicking.
Daniel Kirkpatrick has been good in flashes this season, but has been in a struggling team (Hurricanes). He doesn’t stamp his authority on the game.
With Tony Brown you know what you will get, Brown is as down to earth and level headed as the come, unlike most of the other contenders. Who would you rather have coming off the bench in a Rugby World Cup final? Stephen Donald or Tony Brown?
Brown is a longshot, but given the current injury crisis, we could do a lot worse than Tony Brown aged 36 from Kaitangata.
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