The All Blacks’ mission to win a third successive World Cup, and a fourth overall, started yesterday as Steve Hansen named his squad for the opening two games of the Rugby Championship.
As expected, the squad will strike fear into all of the All Blacks’ rivals, not only for who is in it, but due to the quality of those that have missed out. In fact, a strong international team could easily be comprised of those that have been overlooked, and that is not even including those that are injured like Ryan Crotty, Scott Barrett, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Liam Squire (who withdrew from selection).
So this is the All Blacks’ unselected XV:
15 David Havili
The five-cap All Black has been terrific for the Crusaders this year, keeping out another emerging talent in Will Jordan.
14 Waisake Naholo
One of the biggest names to miss out, as Hansen has turned to younger players such as Braydon Ennor, Sevu Reece and George Bridge. He is moving to London Irish next season, and this could be the end of his All Blacks career for now.
12 Ma’a Nonu
Although 37, the 104-cap All Black’s comeback season got better and better, outperforming his teammate Sonny Bill Williams, who was injured for large parts.
11 Wes Goosen
The Hurricanes had some lethal finishers this season with Wes Goosen and Ben Lam, who are both unlucky to miss out. But at 23, the New Zealand under-20 international may get his chance in the future.
10 Otere Black
Blues fly-half Black’s chances of an All Blacks call-up increased after McKenzie’s injury, but ultimately lost out to Josh Ioane, whose form for the Highlanders at the end of the season was superb.
7 Gareth Evans
Had a season hampered by injury, which always meant the versatile loose forward was going to struggle to add to his one cap he earned last year.
6 Jordan Taufua
Taufua is another player that fans cannot believe is uncapped. He will play his 101st game for the Crusaders in the Super Rugby final before moving to Leicester Tigers, which may have influenced the decision not to pick him. Still eligible for Samoa at the World Cup.
5 Luke Whitelock
Although he primarily plays in the back-row, Whitelock has to be in this team, as he is always a reliable presence in the Highlanders pack. Sadly he has never been able to completely win over Hansen, and only has a handful of caps.
4 Luke Romano
A member of the 2015 World Cup winning team, Romano has not put a foot wrong with the Crusaders all season, but has fallen down the pecking order.
3 Tyrel Lomax
The soon-to-be Hurricane will have to make do with playing for the Maori All Blacks for now, but is certainly international quality.
1 Reuben O’Neill
A prop that can play both sides of the scrum is worth their weight in gold, but the Chiefs’ O’Neill missed the entirety of the Super Rugby season, ruining his chances of earning a cap.
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