The All Blacks named nine uncapped players in a 25-man training squad announced on Tuesday for Tests next month against Ireland and England and the upcoming Tri-Nations series.
News24 reports that the new-look group is missing 11 players who have quit the All Blacks since last year’s failed Rugby World Cup campaign, including flank Jerry Collins, who announced his retirement from the New Zealand game on Monday.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry said Collins would not have made the squad anyway due to indifferent form.
Also missing is Hurricanes scrumhalf Piri Weepu, who played his last Test in June last year, World Cup loose forward Chris Masoe and centre Isaia Toeava.
The 25-strong training group also does not include several likely Test contenders from the Crusaders, who play the Super 14 final against the Waratahs on Saturday.
The final 26-member All Black squad for the Ireland and England Tests and the Tri-Nations series will be named on Sunday.
In the absence of Weepu, Jimmy Cowan of the Highlanders and Brendon Leonard of the Chiefs have been named as scrumhalves in the squad, with the Crusaders’ Andy Ellis also in contention.
Uncapped players in the group include Blues lock Anthony Boric and Highlanders lock Tom Donnelly. New players from the Chiefs are lock Kevin O’Neill, flyhalf Stephen Donald and centre Richard Kahui.
Blues centre Anthony Tuitavake has been included, along with wing Rudi Wulf and Highlanders utility back Paul Williams.
With Collins out of the frame, contenders for his blindside flank position include Highlanders loose forward Adam Thomson, the Blues’ Jerome Kaino – both included in the training group – and the Crusaders’ Kieran Read.
Henry backed Collins’s decision to retire from New Zealand rugby, saying he would not have been chosen for the All Blacks squad due to his unimpressive form in the Super 14.
“He wouldn’t have got in the All Blacks in this first selection anyway,” Henry said. “His form had wavered and he’d be the first to agree with that.
“I talked to him two weeks ago and said to him that it was a very competitive position and that other guys were playing better than he was at the time.
“We watched him play against the Blues for the Hurricanes and the semi-final against the Crusaders last weekend, and things didn’t change a great deal in that respect.”
But Henry said he did not believe his conversation with Collins had been a factor in the 48-Test veteran’s decision to retire from the game in New Zealand.
“I think he made the decision to move on some time ago.”
The 27-year-old Collins said on Monday he wanted a break from the game after playing for the Barbarians against England at Twickenham on Sunday, but indicated he would be open to playing overseas later.
All Black training group:
John Afoa, Anthony Boric, Daniel Braid, Jimmy Cowan, Stephen Donald, Tom Donnelly, Andrew Hore, Richard Kahui, Jerome Kaino, Sione Lauaki, Brendon Leonard, Keven Mealamu, Mils Muliaina, Ma’a Nonu, Kevin O’Neill, John Schwalger, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Conrad Smith, Rodney So’oialo, Adam Thomson, Neemia Tialata, Anthony Tuitavake, Paul Williams, Tony Woodcock, Rudi Wulf.Tweet