Steve Hansen has included veteran lock Ali Williams in his 32-man All Blacks year-end squad to tour Europe.
Williams was part of a disappointing Blues’ Super Rugby campaign earlier in the season and picked up a serious knee injury during the All Blacks’ June Test series against Ireland.
The 31-year-old also had a quiet performance in Auckland’s New Zealand Cup final loss to Canterbury, but Hansen defended the player’s inclusion.
‘It came down to the same conclusions that we came down to in June – that we have a 75 Test veteran,’ said Hansen. ‘Yes, he has not played a lot of rugby because of injury but we know he has got the mental capacity to do the job on the field.
‘He brings with him a huge amount of experience, to which we know he is good at assisting the young guys and Brodie Retallick and Luke Romano will benefit from that.’
Hansen has also included two uncapped players in the squad in hooker Dan Cole and scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow.
Cole has been a standout performer for the Hurricanes and Wellington and is selected ahead of Hika Elliot, while Kerr-Barlow is preferred ahead of Andy Ellis.
All Blacks 32-man touring squad:
Forwards: Keven Mealamu, Andrew Hore, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock, Owen Franks, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Wyatt Crockett, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick Luke Romano, Ali Williams, Richie McCaw (c), Sam Cane, Kieran Read, Liam Messam, Victor Vito, Adam Thomson.
Backs: Aaron Smith, Piri Weepu, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, Ma’a Nonu, Tamati Ellison, Conrad Smith, Ben Smith, Cory Jane, Hosea Gear, Julian Savea, Israel Dagg.