The All Blacks have named a Tri-Nations squad featuring some notable absentees.
The inclusion of Highlanders lock Jarrad Hoeata is dominating the back pages in New Zealand, but the players not in the mix are more interesting. Among those are men previously favoured by Henry – Joe Rokocoko, Neemia Tialata and Luke McAlister.
Furthermore, the duo of Cory Jane and Sitiveni Sivivatu only make the squad as cover for Isaia Toeava (hip), Hosea Gear (hamstring) and Israel Dagg (thigh muscle). The five have, however, done little to aid their cause this season.
With Tony Woodcock still injured, the Crusaders’ impressive prop Wyatt Crockett is included in the group. Corey Flynn, Richard Kahui and Piri Weepu also return after injury ruled them out of contention for last year’s Grand Slam tour to the northern hemisphere. Crusaders wing Zac Guildford receives a recall on the back of a good Super Rugby campaign.
Henry has backed Colin Slade as his deputy to flyhalf Dan Carter, despite two broken jaws forcing him to miss the bulk of the season. This is the most worrying position for the All Blacks, with a massive gulf in quality between the incumbent and his replacements.
Henry said he placed a high premium on winning the Tri-Nations, even though the World Cup is a primary focus.
‘The Tri Nations also remains an important competition for the team this year. We are proud of the record we have achieved over the years and the fact that we have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003 and it is crucial as we look to build towards the Rugby World Cup,’ he said.
All Black Tri-Nations squad -
Backs: Mils Muliaina, Israel Dagg, Isaia Toeava, Hosea Gear, Zac Guildford, Richard Kahui, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Ma’a Nonu, Dan Carter, Colin Slade, Jimmy Cowan, Andy Ellis, Piri Weepu
Forwards: Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (c), Jerome Kaino, Adam Thomson, Liam Messam, Brad Thorn, Ali Williams, Sam Whitelock, Jarrad Hoeata, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, John Afoa, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Corey Flynn, Andrew Hore
Injury replacements: Wyatt Crockett, Cory Jane, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Ben Smith.