My seven good reasons were not enough to save Liam Squire’s omission, but that’s not the big bombshell selection from the All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad named today. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has once again shown he has no issues promoting youth and inexperience, as he leaves a double World Cup winning prop at home and takes a one cap bench cameo flanker to Japan.
The biggest shock of all is the absence of the 108 test veteran Owen Franks. The 31 year old, two time World Cup winner has been a leading prop for the All Blacks for nearly a decade, and until Eden Park 2 weeks ago looked a certainty, but today marks a very abrupt end to his international career as he now heads away to play for the Northampton Saints in the Gallagher Premiership. Karl Tu’inukuafe also continues to be on the outer for the All Blacks coaches. On the flipside, the new wave of frontrowers take charge. Atu Moli takes the place of Franks and is join by a cluster of impressive props. Led by the incumbent Joe Moody, he is joined by three Chiefs, Nepo Laulala, Angus Ta’avao and Moli with a single Blue, Ofa Tuungafasi joining the Crusader as the options either side of the front row.
Liam Squire was the talk of this All Blacks side before its naming today and the possibility of being the only self selected All Black, which has come swiftly back like pie in the face. Hansen opting for Luke Jacobson instead for the back row spot. With only one cap to his name which came off the bench late against Argentina in The Rugby Championship opener for the two sides. Its a strong loose forward group regardless, with Same Cane, Ardie Savea and captain Kieran Read the easy picks. Matt Todd was under inspection and completes a very heavy openside contingent. No room for plenty of talent here which we always expected, just who would miss out was the question. No Squire, Jackson Hemopo or Vaea Fifita, will make some Mitre 10 Cup sides pretty happy and depth to call on if required in Japan.
In the backs there was little surprise here. The only question was if Hansen would make room for Hurricanes midfielder Ngani Laumape. It’s been a tough area to break into with only space for four names and the form of players like Anton Lienert-Brown left Laumape with little chance to impress. Sonny Bill Williams slips in as expected and has the Crusaders midfield partnership of Ryan Crotty and Jack Goodhue with himself and Lienert-Brown.
The trend continues with the 17/14 split in the squad. The All Blacks still finding the room for three scrum halves AND three hookers. This give great reward to a guy like Brad Weber, who we all would have loved to see more of over The Rugby Championship, but it’s great to see Weber get the continued pay off for a brilliant season. FIghting for his spot against Hemopo and Fifita, Patrick Tuipulotu’s form versus the Wallabies at Eden Park in Bledisloe Two has been enough to nail his spot in the second row. A performance that would have come with a sigh of relief from the All Blacks coaches.
The majority (19) of this All Blacks team are off to their first Rugby World Cup with three of the them on their way to their third, Read, Sam Whitelock and Williams, whos experience will be invaluable. This All Blacks side boast 1195 international squad caps with Read leading the way on 121 caps and newcomer Luke Jacobson just the one.
It’s great to see the All Blacks coaches not afraid to pick guys on form and to make the tough calls required to keep this side moving forward. Superb recent form from players like Weber, Sevu Reece and George Bridge will not only boost the side now, but with an average age of just 27 and plenty of players still capable of player for two more Rugby World Cups, the depth and future of New Zealand rugby looks as strong and bright as ever before.
How do you think the All Blacks will go at the Rugby World Cup next month!? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and thanks for stopping off Behind The Posts!