Savea dropped from NZ’s Rugby Cham­pi­onship squad

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Block­bust­ing wing Ju­lian Savea has been dropped from the All Blacks with a fit-again Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der back in the frame in a 33-man squad named yes­ter­day for the Rugby Cham­pi­onship.

With the ex­cep­tion of Mil­ner-Skud­der and a re­call for prop Nepo Laulala, the line-up re­flects the front­line play­ers used in the re­cent drawn se­ries against the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Li­ons.

Savea, known as “The Bus” and with 46 tries from 55 Tests, had been a reg­u­lar in the 11 jersey for the All Blacks since 2012, but he now finds him­self dumped on his 27th birth­day. He looked in a pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion when only re­quired for the third Test in the Li­ons se­ries, and was then rel­e­gated to the bench by the Welling­ton Hur­ri­canes for their Su­per Rugby semi-fi­nal against South Africa’s Golden Li­ons.

Mil­ner-Skud­der has been mak­ing a rapid re­turn to form af­ter be­ing out of rugby for most of the past two years with in­jury prob­lems. He last played for the All Blacks in the 2015 World Cup fi­nal.

Of the two All Blacks to take off-shore con­tracts fol­low­ing the Li­ons Tests, Char­lie Fau­muina’s de­par­ture has opened the door for Laulala. But the se­lec­tors opted not to re­place Aaron Cru­den, in­stead re­duc­ing their fly-half ranks to Beau­den Bar­rett and Lima Sopoaga. Damian McKen­zie has been named as a re­place­ment for full­back Ben Smith, who will take an ex­tended break from the game fol­low­ing the first two matches.

“For us, it’s case of re-es­tab­lish­ing our­selves and build­ing on our good work from last year and dur­ing the re­cent Li­ons se­ries,” coach Steve Hansen said.

“There were some clear things learnt in the Li­ons se­ries and this is a great chance for us to im­ple­ment those; to con­tinue to grow our skill ex­e­cu­tion and the men­tal side of our game, and de­velop our lead­er­ship and the lead­er­ship group.”

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Hansen said he also had to be mind­ful of the im­pact that the Rugby Cham­pi­onship travel, which in­volves play­ing in Aus­tralia, South Africa and Ar­gentina, would have on the All Blacks’ end-of-year north­ern hemi­sphere tour. “There is a mas­sive trav­el­ling com­po­nent to the Cham­pi­onship, which comes at a cost at the end of the year, so we’ll be look­ing to im­ple­ment some new strate­gies to try and over­come that,” he said.

Su­per Rugby cham­pi­ons Can­ter­bury Cru­saders pro­vide the bulk of the squad with 10 play­ers, while there are eight from the Hur­ri­canes, six from the Waikato Chiefs, five Otago Highlanders and four Auck­land Blues.

New Zealand squad: For­wards:

Dane Coles (Welling­ton Hur­ri­canes), Nathan Har­ris (Waikato Chiefs) Codie Tay­lor (Can­ter­bury Cru­saders), Wy­att Crock­ett (Cru­saders), Owen Franks (Cru­saders), Nepo Laulala (Chiefs), Joe Moody (Cru­saders), Ofa Tu’un­gafasi (Auck­land Blues), Scott Bar­rett (Cru­saders), Brodie Re­tal­lick (Chiefs), Luke Ro­mano (Cru­saders), Sam White­lock (Cru­saders), Sam Cane (Chiefs), Vaea Fi­fita (Hur­ri­canes), Jerome Kaino (Blues), Kieran Read (capt, Cru­saders), Ardie Savea (Hur­ri­canes), Liam Squire (Otago Highlanders)

Backs: Taw­era Kerr-Bar­low (Chiefs), TJ Per­e­nara (Hur­ri­canes), Aaron Smith (Highlanders), Beau­den Bar­rett (Hur­ri­canes), Lima Sopoaga (Highlanders), Ryan Crotty (Cru­saders), Ngani Laumape (Hur­ri­canes), An­ton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs) Sonny Bill Wil­liams (Blues), Jordie Bar­rett (Hur­ri­canes), Is­rael Dagg (Cru­saders), Rieko Ioane (Blues), Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der (Hur­ri­canes), Waisake Na­holo (Highlanders), Ben Smith (Highlanders). Util­ity re­place­ment: Damian McKen­zie (Chiefs). — AFP

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