Crockett out as Hansen opts for extra cover at first-five
Beauden Barrett is in and Wyatt Crockett is out.
With Dan Carter still recovering from his calf injury, coach Steve Hansen has elected to include Aaron Cruden and Taranaki's Barrett as his backup first five-eighths for the All Blacks' two-match tour of Argentina and South Africa.
The decision to recruit Barrett as an extra playmaker means loosehead prop Crockett has been squeezed out of the 28-man squad, which leaves for Argentina tomorrow night.
Barrett, who can also play fullback, will form the backbone of Hansen's insurance policy even though Carter, who has not played since the Bledisloe Cup win over Australia at Eden Park on August 25, is making steady progress.
Hansen doesn't want to be forced into the situation where he has to ask Barrett to board a flight at late notice for Argentina should the Canterbury playmaker be scrubbed.
The All Blacks coach has reason to be judicious; Argentina's spirited performance in their recent 21-5 loss to the All Blacks in Wellington has proved the return match in La Plata on September 30 could be a tricky mission.
If Carter is ruled out of the Argentina match, Cruden, who has started the past two tests against the Springboks and Argentina in New Zealand, should take over the No 10 jersey ahead of Barrett.
Barrett's inclusion means he will be unavailable for Taranaki's two remaining Ranfurly Shield defences against Manawatu and Waikato.
Although Hansen also had the option of leaving one of his six loose forwards in New Zealand, he opted to jettison specialist loosehead Crockett for the last two Rugby Championship matches.
Since returning from the rib cartilage injury that ruled him out of the recent test against the Wallabies - which Crockett started - Tony Woodcock has owned the No 1 jersey. Charlie Faumuina and Ben Franks can cover both sides, while Owen Franks travels as the sole tighthead specialist.
ALL BLACKS New Zealand squad for the Rugby Championship matches in Argentina and South Africa: Forwards: Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Tony Woodcock, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Samuel Whitelock, Sam Cane, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Adam Thomson, Victor Vito. Backs: Aaron Smith, Piri Weepu, Beauden Barrett, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Tamati Ellison, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Israel Dagg, Hosea Gear, Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Julian Savea.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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