All Blacks name Rugby World Cup squad
August 23, 2011
All Blacks head coach Graham Henry named his World Cup squad ahead of this weekend's Tri-Nations decider with Australia © Getty Images
All Blacks head coach Graham Henry has named his squad for next month's Rugby World Cup.
Flanker Richie McCaw, who will be appearing at his third World Cup, will captain a squad that does not include wings Hosea Gear, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Ben Smith, loose forward Liam Messam, prop Wyatt Crockett and lock Jarrad Hoeata - who all miss out.
One other feature of the squad is the selection of Blues and North Harbour lock Anthony Boric, who was not considered for All Blacks selection earlier this year after suffering a foot injury during the Super Rugby Finals Series. He has not played for nine weeks but returns to rugby this week in North Harbour's ITM Cup match against Wellington. Flanker Victor Vito is also a surprise inclusion, at the expense of Messam, following an impressive cameo against South Africa last weekend.
The selection is made up of 16 forwards and 14 backs, and with 1,133 Test caps between them, is the most experienced All Blacks squad ever assembled. Five of the team's leading players, McCaw, fly-half Daniel Carter, hooker Keven Mealamu, fullback Mils Muliaina and lock Ali Williams, will be taking part in their third consecutive World Cup, while seven will be playing in their second tournament - hooker Corey Flynn, midfielder Ma'a Nonu and lock Brad Thorn played in the 2003 campaign; while prop Tony Woodcock, scrum-half Andy Ellis, centre Conrad Smith and outside back Isaia Toeava played at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
"Firstly, I would like to congratulate all those players selected," said Henry, whose side are in Brisbane preparing for Saturday's Tri-Nations decider with Australia. "It's an incredibly exciting time for the team and a unique opportunity to represent New Zealand at home. The players will be facing the ultimate rugby challenge - playing for the most coveted trophy in world rugby, the Rugby World Cup.
"At the same time I want to pay tribute to those players who have missed out on selection. It was an incredibly difficult process; all the players who missed selection are not only outstanding players but special people. We are close as a group which made this selection all the more difficult."
Gear, hailed as the best winger in world rugby on last year's end of year tour, and Sivivatu saw their World Cup hopes dashed despite both seeing plenty of action this year. Veteran Mils Muliainia, a resurgent Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, the versatile Toeava and Zac Guildford form a potent mix of outside backs.
Fly-half Colin Slade has been retained in the squad despite a poor performance against the Springboks on Sunday although it remains unclear whether he will deputise for Carter with Piri Weepu also an option. Weepu is one of three scrum-halves named alongside Jimmy Cowan and Ellis.
With no specialist cover for McCaw, Adam Thomson will continue to be the back-up openside flanker while John Afoa's ability to cover all three front row positions sees him beat Wyatt Crockett to a place in the squad. Tony Woodcock's successful return to the Test arena after a long injury lay-off has earned him one of the prop berths and he will be joined by brothers Owen and Ben Franks.
Commenting on the make-up of the squad, Henry said: "Generally, this team has been selected on current form. We believe there is a good balance; a blend of experienced All Blacks - with nine players who have played more than 50 Tests - while at the other end of the scale we have seven players who have played fewer than a dozen Tests who bring youthful enthusiasm to the side.
"There is also a balance in the fact that we have players who are specialists in their position while others have utility value and can cover a number of positions, so we have the players to cover any possibilities which may be thrown up during the tournament."
Henry said the All Blacks squad, that will make a promotional tour of the country on September 2, was excited to be playing in front of their home fans. "We have been receiving fantastic support from New Zealanders, we know the country is getting excited by what lies ahead - there is a real buzz around - and the players are really looking forward to soaking up the off-field atmosphere with our home fans."
Following this weekend's clash, the squad will re-assemble in Auckland to prepare for the tournament's opening match against Tonga on Friday, September 9.The All Blacks are in Pool A and face clashes against Japan (September 16, Hamilton), France (September 24, Auckland), and Canada (October 2, Wellington).
Forwards (16): John Afoa, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Kieran Read, Brad Thorn, Adam Thomson, Samuel Whitelock, Ali Williams, Tony Woodcock, Victor Vito.
Backs (14): Daniel Carter, Jimmy Cowan, Israel Dagg, Andy Ellis, Zac Guildford, Richard Kahui, Cory Jane, Mils Muliaina, Ma'a Nonu, Colin Slade, Conrad Smith, Isaia Toeava, Piri Weepu, Sonny Bill Williams.
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