All Black Sonny Bill Williams is on the plane for Buenos Aires despite a hamstring that may not allow him to play Argentina next weekend, but the news is far more positive for team-mates Sevu Reece and Braydon Ennor, who are in line for Test debuts (writes Patrick McKendry of the New Zealand Herald).
Definitely out, as planned, are the senior Crusaders who played in last Saturday’s Super Rugby final win over the Jaguares in Christchurch, plus Highlanders loose forward Shannon Frizell, who has a cut knee.
Apart from outside backs Reece and Ennor, George Bridge, another wing, is the only other Crusaders player in the squad.
Coach Steve Hansen also confirmed that Sam Cane will captain the team in Kieran Read’s absence at Jose Amalfitani Stadium, with Ben Smith vice-captain.
Hansen is happy about midfielder Williams’ fitness. The 33-year-old has had a tight hamstring after playing for the Ponsonby club recently but is a possibility to play.
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“He’s a shot to play, but we’re not going to risk him,” Hansen said. “As much as we want him to play and he needs game time if he’s not 100 per cent there’s no point in putting him out there and him re-injuring it.
“We’ll make the decision late next week. He’s training really well and making really good progress. If he doesn’t make the team for Argentina I’m pretty sure he’ll be available for [(South Africa in) Wellington (the following weekend).”
There is a genuine excitement within the All Blacks as they begin their World Cup build-up proper, and Hansen will be pleased that first-five Barrett has finally announced his plans – a re-commitment to New Zealand Rugby for four years, which includes a shift to the Blues.
He is also pleased with the progress shown by his players. “We’ve had two bites of the cherry… we have had two weeks with the other group and then seeing where the Crusaders are [at] – I’m really excited at where we are heading, as are the players actually,” Hansen said. “There’s a bit of excitement about the game we want to play and the stuff we’re doing.
WATCH: Part one of Operation Jaypan, the two-part RugbyPass documentary series on what the fans can expect at this year’s World Cup finals in Japan
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