Henry shows ruthless streak
June 27, 2010
New Zealand Maori skipper Liam Messam checks for support, New Zealand Maori v New Zealand Barbarians, Toll Stadium, Whangarei, June 12, 2010
Liam Messam's strong form for the Maori has been rewarded © Getty Images

All Blacks coach Graham Henry has shown a ruthless streak in his Tri-Nations squad, axing wing Zac Guildford, prop Neemia Tialata, hooker Aled de Malmanche and flanker Adam Thomson from the selection.

All four played a part in Saturday's victory over Wales but have been replaced in the selectors' affections by Hurricanes centre Ma'a Nonu, Crusaders hooker Corey Flynn, versatile front-rower John Afoa and Chiefs back-row Liam Messam.

Messam and Flynn recently starred in the New Zealand Maori's centenary season, with Messam skippering the side, while Nonu has returned from a knee injury. Afoa's inclusion is an area of interest, with the tight-head also set to cover at hooker after a decent showing in the No.2 jersey for the New Zealand Barbarians.

Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock and Blues midfielder Rene Ranger, who had previously been included as stand-by players, have also made the cut.

"There are a large number of quality players who haven't been selected and that's always difficult," Henry said. "There are players who are not here right now who have been playing particularly well as well.

"That's why it's taxing. That's why it's demanding but it's a hell of a lot better that way than the other way when you're trying to find players. We're in a healthy situation. There's been some depth developed and the NZ Maori campaign was very good and it helped player development."

The back-three was a hotly-contested area, with Cory Jane and Joe Rokocoko the only wingers to make the cut. Richard Kahui and Ranger will provide cover out wide, ahead of Guildford and the in-form Hosea Gear, who scored a hat-trick as the Maori defeated England last week.

"Zac's been a very successful young rugby player hasn't he? He's had a bit of a hiccup... but I think it's a very good challenge. Everything has been very rosy up to now," Henry said. "[Gear] is unlucky, he played very well against England. You can't pick them all but I feel for him because he's played some exceptional football.

"Kahui played there in the game in Dunedin [against Wales] and had a blinder. We think Rene is a project but we think he's got a bit of x-factor which could be vital to us going forward." The All Blacks kick-off their Tri-Nations bid with back-to-back meetings against South Africa, starting in Auckland on July 10.

New Zealand Tri-Nations squad: Forwards: John Afoa (Auckland), Anthony Boric (North Harbour), Tom Donnelly (Otago), Corey Flynn (Canterbury), Ben Franks (Tasman),Owen Franks (Canterbury), Jerome Kaino ( Auckland), Richie McCaw (capt) (Canterbury), Keven Mealamu (Auckland), Liam Messam (Waikato), Kieran Read (Canterbury), Brad Thorn (Canterbury) Victor Vito (Wellington ), Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury), Tony Woodcock (North Harbour)

Backs: Daniel Carter (Canterbury), Jimmy Cowan (Southland), Aaron Cruden (Manawatu), Israel Dagg (Hawke's Bay), Cory Jane (Wellington), Richard Kahui (Waikato), Mils Muliaina (Waikato), Ma'a Nonu (Wellington), Rene Ranger (Northland), Josevata Rokocoko (Auckland), Conrad Smith (Wellington), Benson Stanley (Auckland), Piri Weepu (Wellington)


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