The rise and rise of Cam Roigard continues unabated, reports Liam Napier from France.
Aaron Smith has long held the All Blacks halfback mantle but, as a changing of the guard nears, Cam Roigard appears ready to assume the baton.
For the best part of 12 years, Smith set the standard at the base for the All Blacks. He’s seen off countless challenges in that time – TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Brad Weber among them – to cement his peerless status in the pantheon of great All Blacks No 9s.
Now, though, as Smith prepares to depart to Japan following his World Cup swansong in France, Roigard is rapidly staking his claim to step into the void.
Just as Sam Cane will never replace Richie McCaw, Roigard won’t replace Smith, either. In many respects such comparisons are irrelevant and unfair.
Roigard is a completely different prospect to Smith which, in some respects, enhances his appeal.
The All Blacks have always sought to embrace a range of skills with their halfbacks. Of those pushing to step into Smith’s imminent void, Roigard presents the most complete package – as he has proven at this World Cup.
Crusaders and Tasman halfback Noah Hotham and Cortez Ratima from the Chiefs are others who will increasingly knock on the door of national selection from next year.
Roigard, though, has the inside running. In the space of two years, he has surged from fringe Hurricanes halfback to the lead contender to succeed Smith.
The former speedway saloon driver, who finished second at the New Zealand champs, only committed fulltime to the Hurricanes last year.
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