Cold war about to thaw for coaches
In just 12 days Steve Hansen and Robbie Deans will end their cold war.
The pair have repeatedly swapped glances from their rugby bunkers since Deans waltzed over to the Australian trenches in 2008, although Graham Henry was always present during those intervening years to block the space between them.
Soon, when the All Blacks meet the Wallabies in their Bledisloe Cup opener, only fresh air will divide Hansen and Deans as the former Canterbury and Crusaders coaching partners finally duel directly as head coaches in Sydney on August 18.
Despite not combining since 2001 each will still carry memories of how the other operates and before Deans learned Hansen's All Blacks' 28-man squad yesterday he could have probably rattled off the squad, which was largely predictable, with relative ease.
Lock Ali Williams' omission, because of his knee problem, was the only unexpected call while the international career of loose forward Liam Messam has been relaunched.
All Blacks' boss Hansen was eager to select test veteran Williams, who required surgery in June and was expected to be fit late next month, but a recent scan revealed bone bruising.
That, said Hansen, confirmed the decision to carry Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick and Luke Romano as his only second rowers - instead of the expected four - and he still hopes Williams' career is not spent.
“He'll spend a bit of time with us rehabbing because that's important for him to get back on the track as soon as he can, so we can judge his form going into the end of year tour.”
Chiefs captain Craig Clarke, who battled through Saturday night's Super final win over the Sharks with a knee injury, and Jarrad Hoeata and Jason Eaton have not been required, with No 8 Kieran Read to be groomed as locking cover in an emergency.
Adam Thomson could be seconded to leap as a lock in the lineouts and a replacement will be required only if Whitelock, Retallick and Romano suffer long-term injuries.
Thomson is among the six loose forwards enlisted and Messam, who produced a blistering performance in the 60-0 massacre of Ireland in late June, is the major winner.
Several Crusaders players missed the cut; wing Zac Guildford has been ejected to accommodate Cory Jane's return from injury and halfback Andy Ellis has drifted into the race for the third vacancy on the northern tour.
It now appears Ellis will require either a scintillating ITM Cup campaign with Canterbury or injury to existing halfbacks Piri Weepu or Aaron Smith, or Tawera Kerr-Barlow, to force his way in.
“You just don't want to flood the halfback role with two inexperienced guys at once. We've got a great opportunity by taking three in the end of year series and Kerr-Barlow has played well enough to earn that right at this point," Hansen noted.
Uncapped Aucklander Charlie Faumuina replaces prop Ben Tameifuna.
Sonny Bill Williams' wanderings will not commence until midfielder Conrad Smith returns from his eye injury later this month.
ALL BLACKS SQUAD Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Tony Woodcock, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, Richie McCaw (c), Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Adam Thomson, Victor Vito, Aaron Smith, Piri Weepu, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Tamati Ellison, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Israel Dagg, Hosea Gear, Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Julian Savea.
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