New Zealand Cup
Staggered return for All Blacks
September 16, 2008
All Blacks team manager Darren Shand says each player will be dealt with individually © Getty Images
The majority of the All Blacks squad are confirmed to rejoin their provincial rugby teams over the next four weeks.
The first five players return to the Air NZ Cup this week while a handful will not play for their provinces this season due to injury.
"We've looked at each player on a case-by-case basis," All Blacks manager Darren Shand said today.
"We are balancing player welfare with the desire to make provincial rugby as strong as possible."
Wellington will have prop Neemia Tialata and halfback Piri Weepu available for their Ranfurly Shield challenge on Saturday night against Auckland, who can call on utility back Isaia Toeava.
As well, North Harbour's Anthony Boric and Rudi Wulf are also available for their team's match against Northland on Sunday.
Another 11 All Blacks will return to Air NZ Cup action next week, with John Afoa, Jimmy Cowan, Stephen Donald, Andrew Hore, Richard Kahui, Jerome Kaino, Sione Lauaki, Keven Mealamu, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Greg Somerville and Adam Thomson available for their respective provinces.
Those available for the quarterfinals onwards are Richie McCaw, Mils Muliaina, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Dan Carter.
Shand said Muliaina, Nonu and Smith all had minor but persistent injuries that would benefit from an additional week of recovery.
He said Carter's return for Canterbury would be managed and the star first five-eighth would likely play only in the event of injuries to other players.
"Canterbury's help in managing Dan's workload is much appreciated," Shand said.
" The agreement means Dan can help his province in case of an emergency."
He said Rodney So'oialo would have a similar arrangement with Wellington for the quarterfinals and any subsequent matches, with the loose forward available as injury cover.
Locks Ali Williams and Brad Thorn will not play in the Air NZ Cup due to their international workload as well as chronic injuries while prop Tony Woodcock's return to the competition will be reassessed in a fortnight due to a persistent foot problem.
Williams has battled an ankle injury for most of the All Blacks' season while Woodcock's toe injury and general wear and tear for Thorn mean they require extended recovery time.
The next All Blacks squad will be selected on October 26 for tests against Australia, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England, respectively, as well as a mid-week match against Munster.