Friday, August 12, 2011

New look All Blacks

The All Blacks website reports:

All Blacks Coach Graham Henry and his Assistant Coaches Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith have named their 25-man squad which will be travelling to South Africa for the Investec Tri Nations Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth on 20 August.

The squad is:

Forwards: John Afoa, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Jarrad Hoeata *, Andrew Hore, Jerome Kaino, Keven Mealamu, Liam Messam, Adam Thomson, Samuel Whitelock, Ali Williams, Tony Woodcock and Victor Vito.

Backs: Jimmy Cowan, Israel Dagg, Andy Ellis, Hosea Gear, Zac Guildford, Richard Kahui, Cory Jane, Ma’a Nonu, Colin Slade, Isaia Toeava, Piri Weepu and Sonny Bill Williams.

The squad is made up of 13 forwards and 12 backs and will be captained by 84–Test hooker Keven Mealamu.

All Blacks Coach Graham Henry said: “As with any All Blacks side, the coaches and players set high expectations and the squad which is heading to South Africa is no different.”

“There is real excitement amongst the squad. We have players returning from injury who will be playing for the All Blacks for the first time this year, while others will be looking to take the opportunity to stake a further claim in the black jersey and ensure selection in the Rugby World Cup, so we will have a team which is hungry to play well.”

Graham Henry also notes that Zac Guilford and Israel Dagg have been released to play for Hawkes Bay against Bay of Plenty tomorrow, which will delight pdm and dismay Lofty. They will both head for South Africa on Sunday.

Given the number of first-choice players missing, it's still a very strong looking squad, and that's indicative of the depth that has been built in most positions, with the possible exception of two crucial ones; first 5/8 where Daniel Carter is first, and daylight is second by some margin, and open-side flanker. And Henry is dead right in one regard; if these guys aren't excited, and fizzing for the challenge that lies ahead of them in Port Elizabeth, then they don't deserve to be selected for the Rugby World Cup squad. The players selected are certainly capable of beating the 'Boks on their own soil.

And it seems that Graham Henry and co have resolved the dilemma over Richie McCaw and Mils Muiaina's race to 100 test matches by resting both for this match. They should both bring up their respective tons in the match against Japan on 16 September in Hamilton.

The starting XV for the Port Elizabeth match will be named on Tuesday. After that match the team heads to Brisbane where the All Black RWC squad is set to be announced on Monday 22nd August, prior to the final Tri-Nations match against the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium. Surely, barring injuries, we'll see the All Black First XV unleashed in that match.


pdm said...

Rotation Rotation Rotation

No openside and no cover at 10 - when will Henry and co learn.

The one good thing about this squad is that it appears that Kahui and SBW are going to be the starting midfield.

Inventory2 said...

Weepu will be the back-up five-eighth pdm; and against the slightly less mobile Saffers who always pick a big loose trio, McCaw's absence might not be felt as strongly as it would against Australia for example.

FWIW, I reckon they've done the right thing. They need to find out whether the likes of Dagg, Kahui and Woodcock are fit enough for the RWC. It'll be good to have Kahui and Williams get game-time together but I think that even you'd agree that Nonu and Smith showed last week why they are Henry's preferred combination.

All in all though, there's no reason why a very competitive team can't be assembled from the squad.

pdm said...

Inv - either Dagg or Toeava will miss out on game time in SA as will Guilford I would suspect.

While Smith and Nonu are Henry's preferred choices they are not mine - especially in `must win' games. History shows that they do not perform when the real pressure is on. As for Weepu back up at 10 - give me a break.

BTW the Yarpies have Broussow back and as I recall he was right up there with McCaw and George Smith when he last played test rugby.

gravedodger said...

I fully support the moves here.
One swinging arm from Matfield or any of the other boer thugs and goodnight nurse, just ask Justin Marshall.
Where will the saffas be if they struggle or shock horror lose to these guys who will be up for the game bigtime.
This game will be a big challenge for the ABs and at sea level a great opportunity for the upncomers.

Inventory2 said...

Agree wholeheartedly Gravedodger. There's no point risking Carter or McCaw for this match, and as my post noted, if guys can't fire up for this atch, especially those on the fringe of the squad, do we want them come September/October?

And unlike de Villiers, the Phil Goff of international rugby, at least Henry is being honest about the reason for sending the squad that he is. There's no bollocks about players being "under the knife" then going to a training camp and fronting up for the Springboks two weeks later!

pdm said...

He was honest about rotation in 2007 too Inv.

here did that get us?

Inventory2 said...

True, pdm. This is far different to what they did in 2007 though. The Tri-Nations was much earlier, and then they kept players out of the NPC to freshen them up. The top players have played an elongated Super Rugby season, and with tests against South Africa and Australia leading in to the World Cup, all the squad will be taking matchplay into RWC.

gravedodger said...

You make a valid comparison pdm but unlike the illfated and poorly executed last effort, the tactics and the practicalities are much more lucid this time.
Something as simple as a dvt is a clear danger with a one off trip to the republic and a very bruising game at the turn around to boot
As to the actual game I see much to be positive for the ABs about and big risks for the resident comic and his Boks,
Where will they be if Aussie Bobs mob roll them tomorrow at Bloomfontein as they come out of the respite ward at Rastenburg.