Rugby is back in full swing in New Zealand with capacity crowds and exhilarating action in Super Rugby. The return of rugby to our screens also sees the return of a number of talking points especially that of the step-up of the test team, in this case, the All Blacks.
Ian Foster takes over the reins from Steve Hansen and while there is no confirmed date for the return of test rugby, Foster and his coaching staff will be keeping a keener eye than most on Super Rugby Aotearoa.
In round one of the competition, Foster will have been impressed by the performances of Rieko Ioane in the centres as well as his fellow teammates Mark Telea and Caleb Clarke further out wide. He would have been licking his lips with the form of Damian McKenzie and Beauden Barrett at fullback but round two will see another man throw his name into the hat for the fullback role.
At the end of the Rugby World Cup in 2019, the All Blacks bid one of the finest outside backs of the modern era farewell with Ben Smith bringing an end to his career after 84 tests and a decade in the jersey.
2020 has seen the search for the Accountant's replacement start. While Ben Smith was regarded as the best fullback in the game for a large portion of his test career, Smith was regularly used on the wing with the likes of Israel Dagg, Jordie Barrett, Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie all featuring in the fifteen jersey.
A well-rounded player, Smith was skillset was sublime as he was excellent in the air, a distributor, solid defender and an even better runner creating an incredibly difficult template to fill. However, the All Blacks have seamlessly replacement some of the finest outside backs in the game time and time again. And this time it looks as if they may already have a ready-made replacement waiting to get his shot.
Round two of Super Rugby Aotearoa will see the Crusaders make their debut in the competition, following a bye in round one, and with it is the return to the starting line up of the incredibly talented Will Jordan who seems to fit the bill of Ben Smith to the tee.
The 22-year-old adds to an already-potent Crusaders' backline that starts with five All Blacks with Jordan and scrumhalf Bryn Hall the only two exceptions.
Jordan hails from the famed Christchurch Boys' High School that has produced a number of fine All Blacks in its time with the fullback scoring 19 tries in 11 games to finish the 2015 UC Championship as the competition's leading try-scorer.
The explosive Will Jordan 🙌 Will he be the next @SuperRugbynz superstar?— Sky Sport NZ (@skysportnz) January 24, 2020
Catch him in action with the Crusaders when the Super Rugby 2020 kicks off – Friday 31st Jan at the new time of 7.05pm! pic.twitter.com/uUDfz6W8YP
Right after school, he joined the Crusaders' Academy and has gone from strength to strength since.
In 2017, he was a standout u20 player for the New Zealand side that crushed England 17–64 in the final in Georgia.
At the tournament, Jordan finally started to show off some of his excellence and the kind of attributes that Ben Smith has become known for.
Against Italy, he tracked back to collect the ball and superbly spotted a half gap in the defence. He sprinted into the gap and put in an excellent chip and chase which he regathered and scored.
Ben Smith scored 39 test tries for the All Blacks during his test career. A large portion of those tries can easily be attributed to his outstanding support lines that he runs.
Although it may just look like he is just in the right place at the right time, it takes a huge amount of work rate and vision to get into those positions.
Again this is a trait of Will Jordan, something that he combines wonderfully with his pace.
He shows this in one of his tries he scored against Ireland in 2017 as he runs on the shoulder of his now Crusaders' teammate Braydon Ennor to race over the line.
The Ennor-Jordan combination could be one we see plenty of both at Super Rugby and test level with the former running another great support line off the latter to score out wide in the very same game against Ireland.
Smith was a master at setting up or finishing long-range tries with the All Blacks and again this is something Jordan is well accustomed to doing.
His first try in the clip below shows off his excellent support lines and pace, once again, but the second is example of how he can switch from defence to attack and have the opposition standing behind the sticks wondering 'how on earth they let that one go.'
The Wallabies' supporters will know that feeling better than most.
Les @AllBlacks Beauden Barrett et Ben Smith changent de position dans leur clash contre les @Springboks ce week-end...— Rugby World Cup (@RugbyWorldCupFR) July 26, 2019
Dans tous les cas, ils sont une vraie menace pour l'adversaire !#RWC2019 J-55https://t.co/fbuvd0Il5p pic.twitter.com/D2cc4JcsfE
Ben Smith spent most of his Super Rugby career in the Highlanders 15 jersey but with David Havili in the position for the Crusaders, Jordan has had to take his limited number of opportunities in the role to make his mark. Like Smith with the All Blacks, Jordan has been shunted out to the wing regularly to get into the Crusaders side and has shone with every opportunity he has been given.
Having missed the 2018 Super Rugby season through injury, Jordan stepped up in round four of Super Rugby 2019 scoring two wonderful tries from fullback.
He grasped his opportunity again in 2020 dotting down twice against the Waratahs with his second try once again coming off a lovely support line off Braydon Ennor.
While being a fantastic young talent, there a few work ons Jordan has before he is to take on the highest level, note some of his defensive work in the Waratahs game but he certainly does have all the attributes to be a world-beater.
Contracted with to the Crusaders until the end of 2022, Jordan is in the perfect place to excel with Scott Robertson at the helm and has the opportunity to build experience with one of the best attacking All Black laden backlines in Super Rugby with a powerful pack in front of him.