NZ and Aussie squads named
Sydney - The All Blacks and Wallabies have named their Tri-Nations squads, with both featuring notable inclusions and absentees.
The inclusion of Highlanders lock Jarrad Hoeata in the All Black squad is causing the biggest tongue wagging, but also of interest are the exclusions of Joe Rokocoko, Neemia Tialata and Luke McAlister.
Cory Jane and Sitiveni Sivivatu make the squad as cover for Isaia Toeava (hip), Hosea Gear (hamstring) and Israel Dagg (thigh muscle).
Hugely surprising is the fact that Crusaders loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett can only make the squad as cover for the injured Tony Woodcock. Corey Flynn, Richard Kahui and Piri Weepu also return after injury ruled them out of contention for last year’s Grand Slam tour to the northern hemisphere.
Colin Slade is in as deputy flyhalf to Dan Carter.
Coach Graeme Henry said he placed a high premium on winning the Tri-Nations, even though the World Cup is a primary focus.
‘The Tri Nations also remains an important competition for the team this year. We are proud of the record we have achieved over the years and the fact that we have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003 and it is crucial as we look to build towards the Rugby World Cup,’ he said.
All Black Tri-Nations squad:
Backs: Mils Muliaina, Israel Dagg, Isaia Toeava, Hosea Gear, Zac Guildford, Richard Kahui, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Ma’a Nonu, Dan Carter, Colin Slade, Jimmy Cowan, Andy Ellis, Piri Weepu
Forwards: Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (c), Jerome Kaino, Adam Thomson, Liam Messam, Brad Thorn, Ali Williams, Sam Whitelock, Jarrad Hoeata, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, John Afoa, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Corey Flynn, Andrew Hore
Injury replacements: Wyatt Crockett, Cory Jane, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Ben Smith.
And across the Tasman, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans named 14 Reds players in his 40-man Tri-Nations squad.
Radike Samo earns a call-up, as does hooker James Hanson, which is hugely surprising. Rocky Elsom retains the captaincy, while Phil Waugh and Stirling Mortlock are out the mix.
Daniel Vickerman is included despite having not played Test rugby for three seasons while he completed his studies.
Waratahs backs Drew Mitchell, Rob Horne and Berrick Barnes, and Force No.8 Richard Brown were all left out due to injuries but remain in World Cup contention.
Wallabies Tri-Nations squad:
Ben Alexander, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Luke Burgess, Quade Cooper, Ben Daley, Rod Davies, Dave Dennis, Rocky Elsom (capt), Anthony Faingaa, Saia Faingaa, Will Genia, Mark Gerrard, Matt Giteau, James Hanson, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, James Horwill, Digby Ioane, Sekope Kepu, Salesi Ma’afu, Pat McCabe, Ben McCalman, Stephen Moore, Luke Morahan, Dean Mumm, James O’Connor, Wycliff Palu, Nick Phipps, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota Nau, Beau Robinson, Benn Robinson, Radike Samo, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Sitaleki Timani, Lachie Turner, Dan Vickerman.