Oliver named in All Blacks squad
June 11, 2005

The All Blacks rugby selectors have named injured hooker Anton Oliver in their squad to face the Lions in the three-test rugby series starting later this month.

The former New Zealand captain has been sidelined since injuring his calf late in the Super 12 competition five weeks ago, but coach Graham Henry said Oliver's progress made him a "good" chance to play in the first test at Christchurch on June 25.

Auckland's Derren Witcombe will train with the squad as cover for Oliver.

Notable omissions were Waikato forwards Jono Gibbes and Marty Holah, who were outstanding in the New Maori team's 19-13 defeat of the Lions last night, and speedster Joe Rokocoko.

Gibbes, who has a foot injury, will also train with the squad.

Rokocoko, who has scored 27 tries in 23 Tests, missed out to Doug Howlett, cousin Sitiveni Sivivatu and Rico Gear in Graham Henry's 26-man squad.

Henry said: ``We think the other three are playing better than him at the moment.

``We are sure he will play many more Tests for the All Blacks in the future.''

There was also no room for openside Marty Holah, who had an outstanding game in the New Zealand Maori's victory over the Lions.

Instead the All Blacks selectors - Henry, assistant coaches Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen and Sir Brian Lochore - have opted for just one specialist openside in Richie McCaw with Holah named in the Junior All Blacks squad.

The announcement marked the return of Canterbury and Crusaders fullback Leon MacDonald to the international fold after spending the 2004 season in Japan playing rugby.

MacDonald and Aaron Mauger will be used as back-up flyhalves to Daniel Carter, meaning there is no room in the squad for veteran Andrew Mehrtens, who hasprobably played his final game the All Blacks.

New Zealand Maori captain Jono Gibbes and hooker Derren Witcombe will also train with the squad.

Witcombe is there as cover for Anton Oliver who is still recovering from a calf injury, while Gibbes is struggling with a foot injury but is likely to remain with the group if that heals.

The squad assembles in Auckland on Tuesday for a three-day camp.

All Blacks squad named today to prepare for the three-test rugby series against the Lions:

Backs: Mils Muliaina (Auckland), Leon MacDonald (Canterbury), Doug Howlett (Auckland), Rico Gear (Nelson Bays), Sitiveni Sivivatu (Waikato), Ma'a Nonu (Wellington), Conrad Smith (Wellington), Tana Umaga (captain, Wellington), Aaron Mauger (Canterbury), Daniel Carter (Canterbury), Byron Kelleher (Waikato), Justin Marshall (Canterbury).

Forwards: Rodney So'oialo (Wellington), Mose Tuiali'i (Canterbury), Richie McCaw (Canterbury), Jerry Collins (Wellington), Sione Lauaki (Waikato), Chris Jack (Canterbury), Ali Williams (Auckland), James Ryan (Otago), Carl Hayman (Otago), Campbell Johnstone (Canterbury), Greg Somerville (Canterbury), Tony Woodcock (Auckland), Keven Mealamu (Auckland), Anton Oliver (Otago).

Training with squad: Derren Witcombe (Auckland), Jone Gibbes (Waikato).

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