Scotty Donaldson looks at the first All Blacks squad of 2012. What do you think of it? Who were the lucky or unlucky players?
The All Blacks squad of 30 players has been named to play Ireland in three test matches. The main feature is the inclusion of experienced trio Piri Weepu, Ali Williams and Ma'a Nonu despite average performances for the lowly Blues team. It is ironic that Andy Ellis missed out despite being in some of the best form of his career on Saturday for the Crusaders against the Highlanders. I usually feel that Andy Ellis has been lucky to be an All Black in the past, but this time he is unlucky to miss selection. Predictably some of the younger players in the initial training squad missed selection in this squad with the likes of Tawera Kerr- Barlow, Charlie Faumuina, Brad Shields and Luke Whitelock likely to make the All Blacks one day in the future, but not yet.
There are now only two halfbacks and hookers in the All Blacks which goes against a previous tradition of having three hookers and halfbacks in the squad. It is funny having a squad of thirty for three domestic tests. This means some people may not actually play for the All Blacks in this series despite being named.
It is weird that Piri Weepu made this squad when you consider that there is only one other halfback and there are three first five eighths in the squad. Weepu's ability to play two positions and kick goals must surely have counted in his favour. He has also lost plenty of weight to improve his chances.
This All Blacks 2012 squad is a good looking team with plenty of experience and youth. It is exciting to have so many talented young players around. It will be interesting to see what the focus will be for the All Blacks leading into the Rugby World Cup 2015. About half of this current squad won't be playing rugby in 2015 and so it will be important to gradually introduce new young players.
Backs - Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Julian Savea*, Zac Guildford, Hosea Gear,
Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Tamati Ellison, Dan Carter,
Beauden Barrett*, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith*, Piri Weepu
Forwards - Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Victor Vito, Adam Thomson,
Sam Cane*, Luke Romano*, Ali Williams, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick*, Andrew
Hore, Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Ben Tameifuna*,