Rugby

All Black for some including ‘demoted’ Hansen

All Black for some including ‘demoted’ Hansen
Otago's Ben the bolter?

Otago's Ben the bolter?

The All Black team for their Northern Tour was announced today and it contained a solid core of the usual suspects; a few players who you could say are lucky to be retained, and of course a couple of bolters.

The squad features 18 forwards and 15 backs and will again be captained by Richie McCaw. Interestingly, there has been a change in the coaching responsibilities.

Steve Hansen has lost the job of forwards coach to Graham ‘Smug’ Henry in the reshuffle. Hansen will concentrate on attack duties and Wayne Smith moves to become the defensive coach.

This is not a surprise as Hansen has come under sustained attack by a number of former All Blacks and coaches for the poorly functioning lineout and other earlier forward deficiencies.

The selectors have resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes after a very average international season and have retained virtually their entire Tri-Nation’s squad.

In fact, from the team that played against Australia in Auckland on 18 July there are only two ‘unforced’ changes. They are Joe Rockokoko, who is probably the major casualty but not entirely surprising considering his less than impressive form this year, and Isaac Ross.

Ross has been left behind, and this had been telegraphed by the selectors previously, so that he can ‘work on his body and game’ for the demands of international rugby. The coaches said that they were very pleased with his progress but he needed to put on more bulk.

This is a ridiculous course of action. The guy is a real find and taking him away and exposing him to international northern hemisphere rugby would be the best thing they could do with him. Don’t they have access to gyms on tour? It reminds me a little of Smug’s decision to ‘cotton wool’ players from the 2007 RWC year Super 14 – now that was a great success wasn’t it?

Hosea Gear and Aled de Malmanche are two other squad members who haven’t made it. Gear had only been a late addition due to injuries and de Malmanche hasn’t really cut the mustard with his lineout throwing, although he was only given very limited game time.

Players not considered for selection due to injury include: Piri Weepu (ankle), Isaia Toeava (pelvis), Lelia Masaga (shoulder), Keven Mealamu (chest), Bryn Evans (back), Richard Kahui (shoulder) and Ali Williams (Achilles).

The new caps in the squad are 27-year-old Bay of Plenty first five-eighth Mike Delany, 20-year-old Hawke’s Bay winger Zac Guildford, 23-year-old Otago fullback/wing Ben Smith and 26-year-old Wellington utility back Tamati Ellison, who had yet to be officially selected in an All Blacks squad.

Ben Smith (Ben who?) is one of the bolters and makes the All Blacks after just his third season of Air New Zealand Cup rugby. He made his debut for the Highlanders this year having come up through the right channels – he played in the 2007 New Zealand Under 21 side.

He has some utility value but is essentially selected as a wing on the back of some impressive performances in a misfiring Otago ANZ Cup team (albeit mainly at fullback).

The other bolter is the experienced Mike Delany who made his provincial debut in 2005 and his Super 14 debut last year for the Chiefs. He has played 52 matches for Bay of Plenty in the Air New Zealand Cup and is the leading points scorer and form five eighth.

Stephen ‘Andrew’ Donald survived the cut and along with Dan Carter they’re taking three five eighths (and three halfbacks) on tour. The much touted Aaron Cruden from Manawatu is too raw at this stage but his time will come.

Zac Guildford has had a stellar season this year playing for the Hurricanes, the world champion New Zealand Under 20 team (where his father tragically died in the stands in Japan) and Hawke’s Bay.

He is the leading try scorer in this year’s Air New Zealand Cup with 13 tries. It was only a matter of time before this Napier Boys High School product’s selection came to fruition.

Tamati Ellison is a skillful utility player who has the ability to cover several positions which has made him invaluable for his Wellington and Hurricanes teams.

The All Blacks squad also features the return of Canterbury hooker Corey Flynn, who fractured his arm on last year’s Grand Slam tour, his Canterbury teammate halfback Andy Ellis (for Weepu) and North Harbour lock Anthony Boric who’s also returning from injury.

For some reason they’re only taking two hookers on tour and may live to regret that decision. John Afoa is the ‘reserve’ hooker, although The Myth would be the designated lineout thrower if required – all a bit untidy.

Liam Messam surprisingly returns after being dropped and copping a serve from Smug after the French loss. Tanerau Latimer and Rodney So’oialo are others who failed to impress in the early games.

Jason Eaton has been selected as a lock and it looks like they’ve given up trying to convert him to a No 6.

The team is:

John Afoa Auckland (20 Test caps)
Anthony Boric North Harbour (10)
Dan Carter Canterbury (62)
Jimmy Cowan Southland (28)
Wyatt Crockett Canterbury (1)
Mike Delany Bay of Plenty *
Stephen Donald Waikato (16)
Tom Donnelly Otago (1)
Jason Eaton Taranaki (13)
Andy Ellis Canterbury (11)
Tamati Ellison Wellington*
Corey Flynn Canterbury (5)
Owen Franks Canterbury (6)
Zac Guildford Hawke’s Bay *
Andrew Hore Taranaki (43)
Cory Jane Wellington (8)
Jerome Kaino Auckland (22)
Tanerau Latimer Bay of Plenty (3)
Brendon Leonard Waikato (12)
Luke McAlister North Harbour (28)
Richie McCaw Canterbury (76) – captain
Liam Messam Waikato (2)
Mils Muliaina Waikato (77)
Ma’a Nonu Wellington (42)
Kieran Read Canterbury (12)
Sitiveni Sivivatu Waikato (39)
Rodney So’oialo Wellington (60)
Ben Smith Otago *
Conrad Smith Wellington (29)
Adam Thomson Otago (12)
Brad Thorn Canterbury (33)
Neemia Tialata Wellington (37)
Tony Woodcock North Harbour (58)
* denotes new cap

All Blacks Northern Tour:

Saturday 31 October, All Blacks vs Australia, National Olympic Stadium, Tokyo
Saturday 7 November, All Blacks vs Wales, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Saturday 14 November, All Blacks vs Italy, San Siro Stadium, Milan
Saturday 21 November, All Blacks vs England, Twickenham, London
Saturday 28 November, All Blacks vs France, Stade Velodrome, Marseille
Saturday 5 December, All Blacks vs Barbarians, Twickenham, London

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Roscoe Tims (aka @LanceFree): A nasty, opinionated little man whose views are indeed narrow with a capital 'N'. Favourite Sport: mungo bashing. Does he ever have anything positive to say?

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