All Blacks unveil 33-man squad for Bledisloe Cup, complete with a few surprises

By Daniel Gilhooly, Daniel Gilhooly is a Roar Guru

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    Fit-again captain Kieran Read has been restored to the All Blacks and will lead a powerful squad in twin Bledisloe Cup Tests this month.

    Coach Steve Hansen sprung few surprises in unveiling a 33-man squad for the Rugby Championship, with Read, hooker Dane Coles, lock Brodie Retallick and prop Tim Perry additions to the squad that swept France 3-0 in June.

    There are 10 players from the freshly-crowned Super Rugby champion Crusaders, including Read, who hasn’t played a Test since last November when he suffered a serious back injury.

    The 109-Test No.8 reclaims the leadership from lock Sam Whitelock ahead of the opening Test against the Wallabies in Sydney next week.

    Read’s return is a straight swap with injured loose forward Jordan Taufua (broken arm).

    While Read took part in the final weeks of the Crusaders’ charge to a ninth title, Coles hasn’t played at any level since rupturing knee ligaments nine months ago.

    He is still recuperating and will miss both opening Tests against Australia, along with inside centre Sonny Bill Williams (shoulder).

    Three Hurricanes players have been dropped from the French series – midfield back Ngani Laumape, lock/flanker Vaea Fifita and prop Jeff Toomaga Allen.

    Laumape and hooker Liam Coltman will join the squad as injury cover for Williams and Coles.

    Toomaga-Allen is replaced by Perry, who missed the French series with a hamstring injury.

    Perry and third-ranked halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi are the only uncapped players.

    Retallick withdrew late from the French series with injury but is poised to end 11 months out of the Test arena.

    “The selectors found this an incredibly difficult squad to select,” Hansen said.

    “It has to be noted that there are some very good players who have not made the squad.

    “One of the positives of having such a talented pool to select from is that it creates natural competition, That competition should remove any feelings of complacency within our playing group.”

    All Blacks Bledisloe Cup squad

    Backs: Jordie Barrett, Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Rieko Ioane, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Beauden Barrett, Damian McKenzie, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.

    Forwards: Kieran Read (capt), Luke Whitelock, Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Liam Squire, Shannon Frizell, Jackson Hemopo, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Joe Moody, Tim Perry, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Nathan Harris, Dane Coles.

    © AAP 2018
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    The Crowd Says (58)

    • August 6th 2018 @ 1:15pm
      Ben said | August 6th 2018 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

      Feel for Fifita but his form hasnt been compelling. However injuries most of the season, concussion and playing lock all season hasnt helped his cause. Hansen said he will get big minutes in npc at 6 and be good to go for the eoyt. Laumape will stay with the squad..Crottys chances of getting injured are high. Toomaga-Allen was always a handy stop gap until the Crusaders props all came back.
      Romano appears out of favour and Daggs career as an AB is over. Been a good loyal servant and at his peak one of the best.
      I cant understand the loud calls for George Bridge…ahead of who? Hes a good finisher on the end of a great Crusaders team but lacks any x factor that Ben Smith, Reiko, Waisake all have. Id probably have Lam ahead of him. Imo Milner-Skudder has past AB form to thank for his selection as hes been ordinary for the Canes. But then again the AB selectors say that past AB form counts.
      Whos the next 7 outside of Cane and Savea? I thought Gareth Evans was a revelation there and a possible bolter should either go down.
      Whats the plan for Akira? Luke Whitelock is a trusty dependable workhorse but lacks that extra that Akira has.
      Hooker..Coles is going to be fed back in via NPC but Coltman and Harris dont really ring my bells. Riccatelli is on the fringes and i would suggest Makalio wouldnt look out of his depth in a test jersey.
      After alls said n done Hansen and co are loyal and get the best outta these guys.
      At the start of the season whod of thought Tu’inukuafe or Hemopo or Frizell would be ABs? “He who dares, wins”.

      • August 6th 2018 @ 1:36pm
        Old Bugger said | August 6th 2018 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

        Ben

        IMO, the downside for Vaea is that he’s a No6 that Hansen and Co, wanted to also use as a lock. Frizzell is also a No6 but his size (not necessarily his height which does help) can easily allow him to slip in as a lock. Whereas Hemopo, is a lock that Shag considers can become a No6 cover. These positions and the versatility of certain players, allows Shag the option to choose 3 specialist locks hence opening a position elsewhere, for someone else.

        Akira’s only downfall that I see, is his tendency to go awol in a match. He fails to maintain his intensity for 80mins. LW was never a player with soft hands or running speed but in the ABs, it isn’t necessary for all the forwards to be so skilled. There’s always room for those who get lost in the trenches, who do the unseen stuff that forwards are tuned to doing and allowing others, to have the magic hands and lightning legs. There really is nothing I can see for Akira to provide the AB pack that Retallick, Squire, Coles/Taylor and Read aren’t already providing while the remaining forwards, dealt with the grunt work – in my mind, Akira wasn’t really adept at playing in the grunt phases where games, called for such strategy.

        Agree with your take on both Romano and Dagg – both great servants. Also agree on Harris – I’d rather see Coltman than NH who IMO, has regressed in his game.

        I don’t have any problems with the rest of the side although I will suggest, the luckiest player IMO would be Jordie Barrett. But, who am I trying to second guess……Hansen IMO, has his finger on the pulse and he has 6 RC tests to get the squad combinations humming, before the EOYT..

        • August 6th 2018 @ 1:44pm
          Ben said | August 6th 2018 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

          I think people get caught up with Jordys form at centre where hes been for the canes last 4 or 5 matches. Hes no centre imo but has been great at fullback and i would suggest hes only a possible stop gap at centre in a mid match crisis. Fullbacks his spot and chuck in his long range goal kicking. No problems.

      • Roar Guru

        August 6th 2018 @ 1:43pm
        taylorman said | August 6th 2018 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

        I see Bridge ahead of Lam who is strictly catch and run. IMO has less x factor than Bridge.

        • August 6th 2018 @ 1:49pm
          Ben said | August 6th 2018 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

          Hansen made special mention of Aso Procter and Lam saying Lam is probably only an injury away. No mention of Bridge.

          • Roar Guru

            August 7th 2018 @ 5:33am
            taylorman said | August 7th 2018 @ 5:33am | ! Report

            Well thats was obvious from his selections. Still dont agree Lams the better prospect long term. Havent seen anything of his kicking or passing, linking game, inside runs etc. Seems content to wait for the ball and run.

          • August 7th 2018 @ 11:58am
            robert said | August 7th 2018 @ 11:58am | ! Report

            sorry ben but hansen did mention bridge, said he would be an ab in the future

        • August 6th 2018 @ 2:17pm
          AlBo said | August 6th 2018 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

          I haven’t watched many Crusaders games fully this year but Bridge has stood out in all the ones that I have. I can’t imagine it’s far off for him, unless there’s something I’m missing. He looks special.

          • August 6th 2018 @ 2:29pm
            Lara said | August 6th 2018 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

            Trend to agree, Bridge has this knack of creating, lovely skills , brave in the tackle, solid under the high ball…..reminds me of a Corey Jane.

    • Roar Guru

      August 6th 2018 @ 1:18pm
      Machpants said | August 6th 2018 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

      Nothing amazing, really.
      NMS lucky, as he’s been poor /lacking spark & speed
      Fafita rightly dropped
      Hemopo (latest lock loosie combo project) and frizzell (latest amazing athlete project) I can’t see being around long term ABs
      What does akira need to do to make it? Attitude problem, I guess?

      • Roar Guru

        August 6th 2018 @ 1:31pm
        Ralph said | August 6th 2018 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

        Yes, Mr Milner-Skudder must be on thin(fish) ice. Who would you replace him with?

        • August 6th 2018 @ 1:59pm
          Fionn said | August 6th 2018 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

          Don’t Bridge and Havili both perform the winger/fullback role? Milner-Skudder was one of the very best a few years ago but doesn’t seem to have the speed and step that he used to, sadly.

          • August 6th 2018 @ 2:13pm
            Old Bugger said | August 6th 2018 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

            Yep Fionn they do and when Bender finally pulls up stumps, I can see one of these blokes slipping into the AB squad to cover the wing/FB role especially now that it looks like Dagg’s AB career, is over.

            • Roar Guru

              August 6th 2018 @ 2:22pm
              Ralph said | August 6th 2018 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

              Yep, Poor Mr Dagg is running with mostly bone on bone now.

              • August 6th 2018 @ 6:54pm
                Fionn said | August 6th 2018 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

                Dagg played last year during the Lions series, right?

              • August 6th 2018 @ 7:06pm
                Ben said | August 6th 2018 @ 7:06pm | ! Report

                Yes he did.
                1st test wing with Ben Smith fullback.
                2nd test fullback.
                3rd test wing with Jordy fullback.

              • August 6th 2018 @ 7:09pm
                Fionn said | August 6th 2018 @ 7:09pm | ! Report

                Cheers, Ben. Has he just picked up too many injuries since then? I don’t remember him playing poorly against the Lions. I thought the Lions just played a great series overall. All Blacks made some errors in the third test and so it was a draw.

            • August 6th 2018 @ 6:57pm
              Fionn said | August 6th 2018 @ 6:57pm | ! Report

              Sad that Ngatai had those head knocks as he could have been a longterm All Black 12 or 15. I saw someone else describe him as a prince of footballers, which seems like an apt description. You’ve got to see that he probably made the right decision given his concussion issues, sadly.

              Between those two, Beauden, Jordie and Alaimalo I think you guys are pretty well served for wings/fullbacks in the coming years.

              • August 7th 2018 @ 12:50am
                Ben said | August 7th 2018 @ 12:50am | ! Report

                Yes he has had a lot of injuries this season and has spent the better part of the season injured. Didnt make the eoyt either through injury as well. Then when it looked like he was finally fit and well again he got that late high shot against the Brumbies I think it was and it knobbled his knee as well as concussed him, putting him out again.Injuries, form and father time……..

          • Roar Guru

            August 6th 2018 @ 2:21pm
            Ralph said | August 6th 2018 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

            Good thoughts Fionn. I’d love to know Hanson’s ‘work-on’ list for George Bridge. He would be on my list.

            • August 6th 2018 @ 6:54pm
              Fionn said | August 6th 2018 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

              Yeah I wonder that too. He comes across as a very complete footballer, but perhaps just lacking some of that ‘x-factor’.

              He’s certainly a really good player though, Ralph. Some decent players down there in Canterbury at present, eh?

              • August 6th 2018 @ 10:24pm
                Sylvester said | August 6th 2018 @ 10:24pm | ! Report

                It’s interesting because people said the same about Ben Smith when he was first selected too. I see Bridge being similar in that he’s stronger and more elusive than he appears, runs good support lines, and certainly doesn’t lack speed over distance.
                If’s he’s this good next year, he should overtake at least NMS.

          • August 6th 2018 @ 4:27pm
            jacko said | August 6th 2018 @ 4:27pm | ! Report

            I think Alaimalo has been the form FB of the SR season

            • August 6th 2018 @ 6:48pm
              Old Bugger said | August 6th 2018 @ 6:48pm | ! Report

              Oooooops jacko, my bad……..I totally forgot about King Soloman. I think he must be somewhere on Shag’s radar as No15 covering No 11 or 14.

              • August 7th 2018 @ 8:29am
                Jacko said | August 7th 2018 @ 8:29am | ! Report

                yeah still young yet..plenty of time…The other guy who does not get much attention but is going fantastic is Thompson from the Highlanders…..

      • August 6th 2018 @ 3:22pm
        Julz said | August 6th 2018 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

        Has Nehe had a bad game with the All Blacks tho?
        Remember it’s a different ball game when it comes to the black jersey. Remember Nonu.

        • Roar Guru

          August 6th 2018 @ 6:45pm
          Machpants said | August 6th 2018 @ 6:45pm | ! Report

          Try but Nonu was never coming off two seasons ruined by injury and lacking speed because of it.

          Bridge would be my choice, we’ve got enough FBs.

      • August 8th 2018 @ 3:09am
        canadiankiwi said | August 8th 2018 @ 3:09am | ! Report

        Akira is LAZY. He hits very few rucks and makes very few tackles per game at Super Rugby. This is despite being told by All Black coaches he needs to his improve his work rate last season.

        Akira also has developed a bad habit of taking trail balls from a stand still and flat as opposed to sprinting on the pass from depth.

        Akira had the chance to move to the Hurricanes and Chiefs for Super Rugby in 2019 but rejected it as he is too comfortable living at home in Auckland and does not want to be competing for a starting position where as Blues have no choice but to start him.

    • August 6th 2018 @ 1:23pm
      Ben said | August 6th 2018 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

      Its all about workrate for Akira if you heard Hansen earlier this season. Hes in the mix but needs to fix some work ons and micro skills.

      • Roar Guru

        August 6th 2018 @ 1:32pm
        Ralph said | August 6th 2018 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

        He’s young, maybe he is not ready in himself yet. I think giving him some space is probably the best course.

    • August 6th 2018 @ 1:32pm
      jimbo81 said | August 6th 2018 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

      Forgot the other AB squad members Nigel Owens, Romain Poite and Jaco Peyper.

      • August 6th 2018 @ 2:09pm
        Ben said | August 6th 2018 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

        “Researcher Ben Radford wrote about the phenomenon of clowns in history and modern day in his book Bad Clowns and found that bad clowns have evolved into Internet trolls. They do not dress up as traditional clowns but, for their own amusement, they tease and exploit “human foibles” in order to speak the “truth” and gain a reaction. Like clowns in make-up, Internet trolls hide behind “anonymous accounts and fake usernames.” In their eyes they are the trickster and are performing for a nameless audience via the Internet.[48]”

        • August 6th 2018 @ 2:57pm
          Faith said | August 6th 2018 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

          Hmmm I wonder who has been a Bad Clown here – would it e Jimbo. Lol Poite denied ABs a Lions series by reversing a penalty you bad sad clown …

          • August 7th 2018 @ 5:30am
            Riccardo said | August 7th 2018 @ 5:30am | ! Report

            It was Garces call from the TMO booth actually.

            And he also made some dubious rulings in the previous Test.

            Not that this disproves your point; Poite had the onfield whistle.

            This is Jimbo’s blinkered vision of rugby unfortunately – any thread that mentions the All Blacks carries this misnomer…

            • August 7th 2018 @ 11:19am
              Kane said | August 7th 2018 @ 11:19am | ! Report

              Well George Ayoub was the TMO, Garces made the call from the sideline, he had seen only what Poite had seen on the big screen. That change of call was Poites decision.

              You’re correct Garces did make some dubious calls in the previous test.

      • August 6th 2018 @ 8:36pm
        vesi said | August 6th 2018 @ 8:36pm | ! Report

        are you relate to Michael Cheika

      • August 7th 2018 @ 9:49am
        Mapu said | August 7th 2018 @ 9:49am | ! Report

        I hope that the 81 is not your birth year because if it is…Grow up !!

    • August 6th 2018 @ 1:47pm
      cantab said | August 6th 2018 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

      nothing much there, will be some big calls though for the game day 23!!

    • August 6th 2018 @ 1:51pm
      Lion Brown said | August 6th 2018 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

      Really don’t get the Jordie Barrett love – and that was prior to the failed H’canes experiment of bunging him in the centres

      Great to see the ongoing selection of Manawatu players – that province has become a production line

      • August 6th 2018 @ 2:15pm
        Ben said | August 6th 2018 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

        Why do you think it was an “experiment”?
        The 2 specialist centres Aso and Procter went out with injury. That only left Goosen Umaga-Jensen or Jordy.

        • August 7th 2018 @ 4:42am
          Lion Brown said | August 7th 2018 @ 4:42am | ! Report

          Because its clear he’s not up to playing centre at this level – sure that was where he played at school etc but his tackling technique and positioning isn’t up to it

      • August 6th 2018 @ 3:53pm
        ethan said | August 6th 2018 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

        Jordie’s got all the skills to be a great fullback, will be good for him to learn off Ben Smith. Can’t see Hansen mucking about by moving him to the centres.

        • August 7th 2018 @ 4:47am
          Lion Brown said | August 7th 2018 @ 4:47am | ! Report

          Maybe but I’m of the opinion he would be better served learning and improving at NPC level – of the fullbacks in the NZ SR teams he would maybe make blues – the other 3 sides all have better fullbacks

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