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.