New Zealand rugby
All Blacks squad rewards generation next
May 15, 2013
Blues winger Frank Halai's form for the Blues has been recognised by Steve Hansen © Getty Images
If you're an All Blacks supporter, are you prepared to risk defeat so we can transition new players and look to the future?
There's no doubt sending our most experienced team onto the paddock will probably get us a winning result. But at what stage does Steve Hansen start the transition from old to new?
I can guarantee you this though, the old won't be prepared to give up their jerseys just yet. With the desperation to defend our Rugby World Cup title in 2015 when does the development of that squad start? Hansen has just over two years to find his group, and I'm picking nearly all of them are in this wider training squad.
At the camp he will get the chance to compare apples with apples. They go into the All Blacks environment now and get the opportunity to see how the senior players go about things. It's a huge group that gets to see the vision for the All Blacks, and he will get some one-on-one contact with players he hasn't had any dealings with before and he gets the chance to put some pressure on players he needs to lift their game.
We should not be surprised by this. If you didn't expect this you haven't been reading between the lines. Hansen has continually used the word loyalty, trust and faith so he was always going to give the guys who had done the job before the opportunity to do the job again. In saying that, how many opportunities they get remains to be seen.
It's great to see players who have played consistently with good form throughout Super Rugby getting rewarded with an opportunity to impress in the All Blacks environment.
Are there any surprises? The lack of a back-up specialist openside flanker has been explained by Hansen because the selectors know what Tanerau Latimer, Matt Todd and Luke Braid are capable of, and they needed to look at more players in other positions.
It is also worth remembering that the expectation for the Rugby Championship is that Richie McCaw will return to the frame.
The inclusion of Frank Halai has to be applauded. Still a raw talent, in recent weeks he has been one who has improved his game out of sight. It's great reward for the Blues to have eight included and it's exciting to see players like Francis Saili, Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua get recognition for the impact they have had on this competition.
The decision to select only three hookers is surprising, given lack of football for both Keven Mealamu and Dane Coles. Ben Afeaki was an obvious selection being close to getting selected last year and his worth can be seen every time he is not on the field for the Chiefs. If there is one position that is well covered with talent it is in the No.9 jersey. When a player like Andy Ellis doesn't get a look in, you know we are blessed.
With the make-up of the first Test team it will be interesting to see if he introduces any of the new blood or relies on the experience of his 2012 group to re-establish themselves in the All Blacks' jersey. It took the Graham Henry era eight years to create depth and to get the right group of players to win the World Cup.
I wait with bated breath to see numbers 1-23 when squad is announced for the first Test.
All Blacks wider training squad
Blues: Frank Halai, Steven Luatua, Keven Mealamu, Charles Piutau, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, Piri Weepu and Ali Williams.
Chiefs: Ben Afeaki, Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Messam and Brodie Retallick.
Hurricanes: Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, Ben Franks, TJ Perenara, Julian Savea, Brad Shields, Conrad Smith, Jeff Toomaga-Allen and Victor Vito.
Crusaders: Dominic Bird, Daniel Carter, Wyatt Crockett, Israel Dagg, Owen Franks, Kieran Read, Luke Romano, Tom Taylor and Samuel Whitelock.
Highlanders: Hosea Gear, Andrew Hore, Ma'a Nonu, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith and Tony Woodcock.
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