Auckland - Scrumhalf Andy Ellis is "definitely likely" to play for
the All Blacks against Samoa next month after almost four years out of the
national squad, coach Steve Hansen said on Wednesday.
The 31-year-old was named on Sunday as cover for Hansen's extended 41-man
squad as all three of his selected halfbacks, Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara and
Tawera Kerr-Barlow, are unlikely to be available for the July 8 match in Apia.
"I'd say (that is) definitely likely," Hansen told reporters in
Auckland where the All Blacks are holding their first training camp of the
"TKB (Kerr-Barlow) is going to play for the Maori, which is three days
later, and Aaron Smith and TJ (Perenara) are both involved with their games.
I'd suggest he might play."
Smith and Perenara are participating in the Super Rugby playoffs and could
possibly meet in the final if their sides win semi-finals this weekend.
Kerr-Barlow is still making his way back from a serious knee injury that he
sustained last year and has not played at all this season.
He will play three club matches and for the Maori All Blacks against Fiji so
selectors can assess his return to fitness.
"We know he is a good player, we just need to see if he can bounce
back," Hansen said on Sunday when Kerr-Barlow was named in the squad.
"If we take our time with him rather than throw him in at the deep end
then I think we will see the player we want."
Ellis has not played for the All Blacks since he kicked the ball out of play
to end the 2011 World Cup final in Auckland as New Zealand claimed the title
for a second time.
Local media reported earlier this year that he was almost brought back for
the All Blacks' 2014 end-of-season tour but could not be extricated from a
temporary contract in Japan.
"Any All Black who gets a recall is normally extremely excited and
that's how he feels," Hansen said.
"It's a dream for a lot of people to be an All Black and when you lose
that opportunity you have time to reflect on it and understand how much it
really meant, so when you get another opportunity I think you're probably
better prepared to make the most of it, so Andy's excited."