HIGHLANDERS LOCK Jarrad Hoeata is the sole new cap in the All Blacks’ 30-man Tri Nations squad.
Eight players – lock Ali Williams, halfback Piri Weepu, prop Ben Franks, hooker Corey Flynn, wing Zac Guildford, flanker Adam Thomson, first five Colin Slade and utility back Richard Kahui – have also been recalled to the national team, while prop Tony Woodcock, utility back Isaia Toeava, fullback Israel Dagg and wing Hosea Gear have also been included despite nursing injuries.
The other big talking point was the omission of 68-test wing Joe Rokocoko and lock Tom Donnelly.
Hoeata earns his selection on the back of a solid Super Rugby season where he played every game for the Highlanders.
Although he can also play blindside, forwards coach Steve Hansen said the Taranaki hardman is being viewed as a lock.
"He trained well in the camps and he has a physical presence," he says.
“He gives us a real physical presence similar to Brad Thorn and that is what we want in our forth lock."
Coach Graham Henry congratulated Hoeata for making the squad and also made special comment on the return of lock Ali Williams after 31 months out of All Blacks rugby due to two Achilles tendon ruptures.
“Many people thought he would never play again and in a weak moment that thought might have crossed his mind too but his achievement is a result of tenacity and determination.”
Weepu, Flynn, Franks and Kahui are returning from injury, while Guildford, Thomson and Slade come back into the fold after being dropped last year.
Slade was in a race with Aaron Cruden to be Dan Carter’s back-up, but backs coach Wayne Smith says it was the former’s back-field play, ability to counter-attack from deep and work under the high ball that saw him selected ahead of his Hurricanes rival.
“It’s a big part of the game today,” he says.
Woodcock (foot), Toeava (hip) and Dagg (thigh muscle) and Gear ( hamstring) have also been included despite nursing injuries, but Henry was confident all will play some part in the Tri Nations.
“They are all making good progress on their individual rehab plans and will play some ITM Cup games before returning to test match rugby.”
Cory Jane, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Ben Smith and Wyatt Crockett have joined the squad as injury cover.
Henry says there was a message in the squad selection for the likes of Sivivatu and Jane that they were still not out of World Cup consideration, but their challenge was to do big things in the interim.
"They have played some outstanding rugby for the All Blacks, but they haven't really performed in Super Rugby this year."
He added that Rokocoko had been an outstanding member of the side and his message to the players was to wish them the best of luck, he was behind them and he wanted them to do well.
Donnelly had come into the side in 2009 when the All Blacks had been struggling for locks and had done “a brilliant job” for the side.
"However, we felt others were playing just a little bit better," he says.
The All Blacks open their international season against Fiji in Dunedin on July 22, before kicking off their Tri Nations campaign against the Springboks a week later in Wellington.
Backs: Mils Muliaina, Israel Dagg, Isaia Toeava, Zac Guildford , Hosea Gear, Conrad Smith, Richard Kahui, Sonny Bill Williams, Ma'a Nonu, Colin Slade, Daniel Carter, Jimmy Cowan, Piri Weepu, Andy Ellis
Forwards: Kieran Read, Liam Messam, Richie McCaw (c), Jerome Kaino, Adam Thomson, Sam Whitelock, Ali Williams, Brad Thorn, Jarrad Hoeata, Owen Franks, John Afoa, Tony Woodcock, Ben Franks, Keven Mealamu, Andrew Hore, Corey Flynn
We run the rule over the dead-rubber test between the All Blacks and France in New Plymouth on Saturday night.
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