Williams out, Faumuina in for All Blacks
Ali Williams’ ongoing knee problems created the only hard decision for the All Blacks coaches, who unveiled a predictable squad to contest the inaugural Rugby Championship.
Prop Charlie Faumuina is the lone new cap while Blues teammate and 75-test lock Williams was omitted, meaning space could be found for a sixth loose forward – in-form Chiefs flanker Liam Messam.
Faumuina, 25, has recovered from a calf injury and is one of five props included in the 28-man squad, taking the place of Ben Tameifuna from the squad named for the series against Ireland in June.
Coach Steve Hansen said the versatile Faumuina would be considered at tighthead and would “put a lot of pressure” on starting No.3 Owen Franks.
Likewise, wing Cory Jane has overcome injury and been recalled to the squad, in place of Zac Guildford.
Only three locks have been unveiled as Williams continues his slow recovery from injury, with Hansen conceding it was a position “that we don’t have a great deal of strength in”. Loose forward Kieran Read would be the fourth option at lock if required.
There is no room in the squad for departing midfield back Sonny Bill Williams, although he has been named on standby. Williams will be drafted into contention for the first two Tests against Australia on August 18 and August 25 in place of the injured Conrad Smith before beginning his club contract in Japan.
The squad will train together for the first time on Friday, including two 20-minute “games” against Auckland and Counties-Manukau. They will prepare in Auckland until Thursday of the following week before flying to Sydney.
Hansen said players from the Super Rugby-winning Chiefs wouldn’t play in Friday’s hitouts.
“But there’s some guys who haven’t played for six weeks. That’s not great preparation going into a test match.
“We need to provide an environment to get rid of some of the cobwebs.”
All Blacks squad:
Backs: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Hosea Gear, Julian Savea, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Tamati Ellison, Ma’a Nonu, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Aaron Smith.
Forwards: Kieran Read, Victor Vito, Richie McCaw (captain), Sam Cane, Adam Thomson, Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Tony Woodcock, Owen Franks, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Wyatt Crockett, Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu.© AAP 2013