Of the names not mentioned at the All Blacks World Cup squad announcement, Owen Franks is the obvious whopper.
But it didn’t end there.
After 108 tests, Franks was expected to go to Japan even though it’s clear Father Time was nipping at his heels.
Hansen admitted Franks’ mobility had let him down and that the other props offered more around the park with the ball, and on defence.
It’s a bold decision but a sensible one. If the loss to Australia in Perth showed anything, it was that the All Blacks pack couldn’t contain Australia with the ball. And they made few inroads when they had it.
That changed at Eden Park and it’s that pack, plus Atu Moli, that is heading to Japan.
This sort of transition, from a veteran to the new breed, isn’t without precedent at World Cups.
Israel Dagg overtook Mils Muliaina at the 2011 tournament and Nehe Milner-Skudder burst onto the scene four years later.
Heck, you can go back to 1987, when Michael Jones made his debut in the opening match against Italy if you really want to.
Hansen said picking the 31 was difficult and there were always going to be talented players who missed out.
Ngani Laumape is one of those, with Hansen admitting it was simply a case that five wouldn’t go into four.
Ryan Crotty comes in after missing the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup with injury but, as he’s part of the leadership group and can cover second-five and centre, he was always a lock to be picked.
The other big name to miss out was more predictable. Liam Squire had made himself available but it was always going to be a stretch to bring him back in after turning his back on the jersey.
Hansen said they’d spoken, but wouldn’t detail the conversation.
The coach rewarded the huge potential of former New Zealand under 20s captain Luke Jacobson ahead of Vaea Fifita and Jackson Hemopo.
Those two were also in a tussle to sneak in at lock, but missed out there to Patrick Tuipulotu, who was included as a fourth lock because of the injury to Brodie Retallick.
Retallick’s dislocated shoulder is still sore, Hansen said, and he won’t be risked in the pool games, saved instead for a likely quarterfinal against either Ireland or Scotland.
And that’s where some of the other name’s not mentioned at Eden Park still echoed around the All Blacks changing room, where the squad announcement was made.
“This Rugby World Cup looks like being the most fiercely-contested yet, with a large number of teams all believing they can win,” Hansen said. “This will bring possibly more pressure and expectation on them than ever before and it will be interesting to see who can and who can’t cope with it.”
When asked to expand on that, Hansen demurred, suggesting instead that I knew who he was talking about.
I do. And Hansen will been keen to ramp up the pressure on Wales, now the No. 1 ranked team in the World, and Ireland, who beat the All Blacks last year.
Neither team has pitched up at a World Cup before listed in the favourites column. Both will this time.
Hansen is happy to wind up the pressure while at the same time explaining how it’s something the All Blacks live with daily.
“We’re looking forward to tackling that pressure head on and enjoying everything that comes with it.
“We know it’ll be tough and that we’ll need to earn the right, every time we play, to continue throughout the tournament.
“However, that’s exciting and knowing we’ve faced that pressure before gives us confidence.”
From All Blacks.com: The 31-strong squad is as follows (with age, Super Rugby team, province and Test caps).-
Dane Coles (32, Hurricanes / Wellington, 64)
Liam Coltman (29, Highlanders / Otago, 5)
Codie Taylor (28, Crusaders / Canterbury, 44)
Nepo Laulala (27, Chiefs / Counties Manukau, 19)
Joe Moody (30, Crusaders /Canterbury, 40)
Atu Moli (24, Chiefs / Tasman, 2)
Angus Ta’avao (29, Chiefs / Taranaki, 7)
Ofa Tuungafasi (27, Blues / Auckland, 29)
Scott Barrett (25, Crusaders / Taranaki, 30)
Brodie Retallick (28, Chiefs / Hawke’s Bay, 77)
Patrick Tuipulotu (26, Blues / Auckland, 24)
Samuel Whitelock (30, Crusaders / Canterbury, 111)
Sam Cane (27, Chiefs / Bay of Plenty, 63)
Luke Jacobson (22, Chiefs / Waikato, 1)
Kieran Read (33, Crusaders / Counties Manukau, 121) – Captain
Ardie Savea (25, Hurricanes / Wellington, 38)
Matt Todd (31, Crusaders / Canterbury, 20)
TJ Perenara (27, Hurricanes / Wellington, 58)
Aaron Smith (30, Highlanders / Manawatu, 86)
Brad Weber (28, Chiefs / Hawke’s Bay, 2)
Beauden Barrett (28, Blues / Taranaki, 77)
Richie Mo’unga (25, Crusaders / Canterbury, 12)
Ryan Crotty (30, Crusaders / Canterbury, 44)
Jack Goodhue (24, Crusaders / Northland, 9)
Anton Lienert-Brown (24, Chiefs / Waikato, 37)
Sonny Bill Williams (33, Blues / Counties Manukau, 53)
Jordie Barrett (22, Hurricanes / Taranaki, 11)
George Bridge (24, Crusaders / Canterbury, 4)
Rieko Ioane (22, Blues / Auckland, 26)
Sevu Reece (22, Crusaders / Waikato, 2)
Ben Smith (33, Highlanders /Otago, 79)
The squad features 17 forwards and 14 backs with the following positional breakdown: three hookers, five props, four locks, five loose forwards, three halfbacks, two first five-eighths, four midfielders and five outside backs. The All Blacks will again be captained by Kieran Read, who will be taking part in his third Rugby World Cup, together with lock Samuel Whitelock and midfielder Sonny Bill Williams. Nine players will be going to their second Tournament, while 19 are going to their first.
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