There will likely be a few new faces when an All Blacks wider training group assembles in Wellington next week.
Four who attended the last camp are certain to be missing, including classy centre Conrad Smith.
From the squad in May both Ali Williams and Brad Shields are out injured, while Sonny Bill Williams was not considered for selection after his decision to play in Japan later in the year before heading back to the NRL.
And Smith has now joined the casualty list, being sidelined for around six weeks following eye surgery.
In a statement last night Hurricanes doctor Ian Murphy confirmed Smith's problems, saying: “Conrad had two procedures on his left eye for a retinal detachment last week, with the second on Friday. They both went well and he is now recovering at home. At this stage he is expected to be out of training for six weeks.”
Between 20 and 30 players will be in the wider training squad, which will be named on Sunday or Monday.
Players from the winning team in tomorrow night's Super Rugby semifinal between the Chiefs and Crusaders won't be at the camp, but will join the official All Blacks squad when it assembles on August 9 in Auckland.
The condition of those players on the losing side in Hamilton will be assessed, but the coaches intend to include them in the camp.
“We'll have a group of players who haven't done anything since they've finished and other guys who've been involved in finals,” All Blacks manager Darren Shand said.
Contractually, the camp in Auckland breaks the collective agreement as section 99.4 states that Super Rugby players are entitled to two weeks' leave after their franchise's last game.
That means players in the losing team tomorrow should be able to go on holiday until August 10, while the winning team can stay away until August 18, the day of the test between the All Blacks and Wallabies in Sydney.
However, the players were told at the beginning of the year that those who fall into this category would have to take their two-week break later in the year.
The All Blacks squad for the Rugby Championship will be named the day after the Super Rugby final, on August 5. There will be 28 players named.
Another lock will be needed to join Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, which could open the door for a recall for Jason Eaton or Jarrad Hoeata. Alternatively, the selectors could choose to have a closer look at Liaki Moli or Steven Luatua from the Blues, while Chiefs captain Craig Clarke could come into the reckoning.
The coaches had the luxury of five props for the Ireland series, but neither Wyatt Crockett or Ben Tameifuna got any game time. One of them is likely to step aside for the incoming lock and the other may go to make space for Charlie Faumuina.
The loss of Sonny Bill Williams and now Smith does leave the All Blacks light in the midfield.
Ben Smith and Tamati Ellison are current options but Tim Bateman, Ryan Crotty or Francis Saili could be brought in at the expense of wing Zac Guildford, and Hosea Gear might have to make way for Cory Jane.
The All Blacks' opposition for the Rugby Championship opener, Australia, have had two extensive training camps ahead of the August 18 match in Sydney that doubles as a Bledisloe Cup test.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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