Injury opens door for Zac Guildford recall
World Cup wing Zac Guildford has taken his All Blacks training squad snub on the chin but insists he won't be treating Saturday's showdown with the Blues as a test trial.
Twenty-one World Cup winners were named yesterday in a 35-man wider training squad to prepare for next month's test series with Ireland.
Guildford was a glaring omission, with his place going to uncapped Hurricanes try-scoring sensation Julian Savea. However, a potentially serious injury to Richard Kahui could see Guildford boomerang back into All Blacks contention.
Kahui dislocated his shoulder in the Chiefs' loss to the Reds on Sunday.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said Kahui's injury could lead to "a reprieve" for Guildford, adding the omission was not related to his post-cup romp in Rarotonga.
"The Rarotonga thing has got nothing to do with it," Hansen said.
"The expectations are, and the word is, that he's making really good progress in that area of his life, and that's great.
"He's missed primarily because we've gone for three specialist wingers and we all felt Kahui, [Cory] Jane and Savea were all playing better than he was."
Guildford, who did talk with the selectors on their recent tour of the Super 15 franchises, took the bad news in his stride yesterday.
He said his focus now was to help the Crusaders beat the Blues after a Super Rugby stutter against the Melbourne Rebels.
He refused to admit he was disappointed over his All Blacks demotion and was not turning cartwheels at hearing of his potential reprieve.
"Obviously, I'm pretty far down the ranks not to make the 35. I don't think I've played up to my standards in the last few games but before that I was happy with my form," he said. "Hopefully, I can get back to playing some good rugby. I'm not really disappointed, I just need to work harder.
"It is what it is. I'm just taking the positive out of it, they didn't pick me, so it just means I get to focus on the Crusaders. We're struggling a wee bit, so I can put all my energy towards this team."
Hansen said Guildford had been "playing OK" but there was only room for three specialist wings in the squad.
"We were very happy with Kahui and Cory Jane and we feel Julian Savea adds something a little different.
"He's a big guy with a lot of pace and scores lots of tries.
"On form, we thought he was the guy to pick.
"We've got [Highlanders] Ben Smith and Tamati Ellison, who can give that utility role that Zac can't do."
Who was the best-performed All Blacks forward on the northern tour?