Shaun Stevenson: Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan tips star utility back for All Blacks call-up
Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan believes the Hamilton-based franchise’s in-form full-back Shaun Stevenson could receive his long awaited call-up to the All Blacks squad this year.
After three rounds of action in Super Rugby Pacific, the Chiefs are sitting pretty at the top of the standings with a full house of 15 points and Stevenson has been amongst the best performers in the tournament so far.
In excellent form
He delivered excellent performances in the Chiefs’ victories over the Crusaders, Moana Pasifika and the Highlanders and is the competition’s leading try-scorer with five tries.
Stevenson has been delivering outstanding showings for an extended period as he also shone for the Māori All Blacks, North Harbour and the All Blacks XV in 2022.
His brilliant attacking displays led to legendary rugby league coach Wayne Bennett approaching him to play for the new Dolphins NRL franchise, but Stevenson turned down that offer to see out the final year of his New Zealand Rugby contract and stake his claim for a spot in the All Blacks squad ahead of this year’s World Cup in France.
And if he continues to shine for the Chiefs, it will be hard for All Blacks head coach Ian Foster to ignore him. Apart from being Super Rugby Pacific‘s top try-scorer, Stevenson is also topping the charts for clean breaks (8) and metres carried (407), while he is in joint second place for defenders beaten (16).
And McMillan sang the 26-year-old’s praises after Friday’s 28-7 victory over the Highlanders which saw Stevenson’s attacking efforts being rewarded with a brace of tries.
“It’s been well-documented he’s had a fantastic last six or seven months,” said McMillan.
“His confidence is high, we’re seeing him get involved in a lot, and his finishing is second-to-none, so long may that continue.”
Stevenson is also capable of playing on the wing and his ability to cover two positions will boost his chances of an All Blacks call-up as the three-time world champions do not have a settled back three at the moment. This, after Rieko Ioane and Jordie Barrett, moved to midfield positions while Will Jordan is still struggling with a migraine-related condition.
Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie have both featured at fly-half for the Blues and Chiefs respectively this year but will be Stevenson’s main competition at full-back – along with Blues utility back Stephen Perofeta – for the All Blacks’ full-back spot.
Meanwhile, he will be up against Caleb Clarke, Sevu Reece, Mark Telea and Leicester Fainga’anuku for a spot on the wing.
Full backing from McMillan
McMillan is confident that Stevenson could do a job for New Zealand in the international arena.
“I don’t think that the World Cup squad is written in stone, so anyone who plays consistently well puts themselves in the shop window, and you never know,” he said.
“And you’d have to say that he’s doing a lot of good things that must be raising the eyebrows of Fozzie [All Blacks coach Ian Foster] and his crew.”
READ MORE: WATCH: Shaun Stevenson try sets up impressive Chiefs win over Highlanders
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