Coach Steve Hansen has named his All Blacks Rugby World Cup Squad 2015 from New Zealand’s parliament building. Speculation has been rife on who would make the cut, but as the deadline neared a combination of Hansen’s hints and player spotting at airports meant most people had guessed the squad before the announcement.
Hansen was keen to acknowledge that the All Blacks Rugby World Cup Squad 2015’s mind-set was that even though they won in 2011, they were not defending the cup. They are going to try and win it just like all the other teams.
Key members of the victorious 2011 Rugby World Cup squad, Cory Jane and Israel Dagg, missed the cut. Jane has struggled with injury all year while Dagg hasn’t been able to recapture his attacking form in the last couple of seasons. However, Dagg’s kicking game and Jane’s ability under the highball will be missed in the 2015 team. First Five-Eight Lima Sopoaga was another who will be disappointed to miss selection. He drove the Highlanders to their first ever Super Rugby title and then shone in one of the harshest cauldrons in world rugby, Ellis Park against the Springboks. However, the three first fives selected, Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade have had years to press their case, and as Steve Hansen eluded to, have versatility on their side.
Winger Charles Piutau, who has taken all his opportunities in 2015, also missed the cut. The All Blacks Rugby World Cup Squad 2015 consists of only four specialist outside backs, so versatility from the first fives and perhaps Piutau’s decision to head overseas may have swing favour towards the other options in such a competitive group. Finally, Jeremy Thrush is the other high profile casualty. Although a fringe All Black over the last year who has been solid in every opportunity he was given, he is a victim of the selectors’ decision to take six loose forwards and only three locks.
New Zealand opted for three hookers and, despite speculation to the contrary, three halfbacks. The third halfback, Tawera Kerr-Barlow has defied expectation and returned to take his place following a gruesome knee injury last year. Likewise, the selectors have taken a gamble on try scoring winger Waisake Naholo, who fractured a bone in his leg in his one and only test, earlier this season. The All Blacks will have to carry him for the first few games and hope he is fit to play in the third or fourth game of the tournament.
As with Waisake Naholo, excitement surrounds another new All Black winger, the twice capped Nehe Milner-Skudder. Milner-Skudder’s form this year has proved irresistible. Hansen is no doubt excited about taking two game-breaking talents to the Rugby World Cup that opposing teams know so little about. Conversely, they will have to perform well to assuage concerns over the exclusion of Dagg and Jane, two players who have performed on the biggest stage.
Perhaps the most relieved player in the All Blacks Rugby World Cup Squad 2015 will be flanker Liam Messam. He was overtaken in the last minute by Victor Vito for the 2011 Rugby World Cup squad, and the same looked to have happened again. However, his work for the side over the last few years looks to have convinced the selectors to accommodate him and risk going to the Rugby World Cup with only three locks.
Captained by Richie McCaw, the New Zealand All Blacks are in Pool B, alongside Georgia (who they open their tournament against), Argentina, Namibia and Tonga, so should easily move through to the quarter finals. Click here for the Rugby World Cup Fixtures 2015. Here is the AllBlacks.com squad breakdown.
All Blacks Rugby World Cup Squad 2015
New Zealand Forwards
Hookers: Dane Coles (Hurricanes/Wellington), Keven Mealamu (Blues/Auckland), Codie Taylor (Crusaders/Canterbury).
Props: Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders/Canterbury), Charlie Faumuina (Blues/Auckland), Ben Franks (Hurricanes/Hawke’s Bay), Owen Franks (Crusaders/Canterbury), Tony Woodcock (Blues/North Harbour).
Locks: Brodie Retallick (Chiefs/Bay of Plenty), Luke Romano (Crusaders/Canterbury), Samuel Whitelock (Crusaders/Canterbury).
Loose forwards: Sam Cane (Chiefs/Bay of Plenty), Jerome Kaino (Blues/Auckland), Richie McCaw – captain (Crusaders/Canterbury), Liam Messam (Chiefs/Waikato), Kieran Read (Crusaders/Canterbury), Victor Vito (Hurricanes/Wellington).
New Zealand Backs
Halfbacks: Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Chiefs/Waikato), TJ Perenara (Hurricanes/Wellington), Aaron Smith (Highlanders/Manawatu).
First five-eighths: Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes/Taranaki), Daniel Carter (Crusaders/Canterbury), Colin Slade (Crusaders/Canterbury).
Midfielders: Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders/Auckland), Ma’a Nonu (Hurricanes/Wellington), Conrad Smith (Hurricanes/Wellington), Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs/Counties Manukau).
Outside backs: Nehe Milner-Skudder (Hurricanes/Manawatu), Julian Savea (Hurricanes/Wellington), Ben Smith (Highlanders/Otago), Waisake Naholo (Highlanders/Taranaki).