New Zealand omitted wingers Sitiveni Sivivatu and Hosea Gear as selectors picked the most experienced All Blacks squad to try and win the Rugby World Cup on home soil starting next month.
Zac Guildford, Cory Jane and Isaia Toeava were chosen as the wingers, while second-rower Anthony Boric was picked even though he hasn’t played for the All Blacks this year because of a foot injury. Loose forward Victor Vito was selected ahead of Liam Messam.
Flanker Richie McCaw will captain a squad featuring 16 forwards and 14 backs as top-ranked New Zealand seeks to end its 24-year drought at rugby’s four-yearly championship. With a combined 1,133 Test appearances, it’s the most experienced All Blacks roster ever assembled.
“There’s a good balance,” All Blacks coach Graham Henry said in a statement. “A blend of experienced All Blacks, with nine players who have played more than 50 Tests, while at the other end of the scale we have seven players who have played fewer than a dozen Tests who bring youthful enthusiasm to the side.”
McCaw, fly-half Dan Carter, hooker Keven Mealamu, full-back Mils Muliaina and lock Ali Williams were selected for their third straight World Cup. Ma’a Nonu, Corey Flynn and Brad Thorn return after missing the 2007 edition in France.
Other 2011 All Blacks to miss selection include wing Ben Smith, prop Wyatt Crockett and lock Jarrad Hoeata. They’ll be included in a pool of back-up players to cover for injuries at the six-week tournament, Henry said.
Vito is the only player from outside the original extended 34-man squad to make the cut. He’s played just 11 minutes for the All Blacks this year, coming off the bench in their 18-5 loss to South Africa three days ago.
“It was a form thing in the finish,” Henry said at a news conference in Brisbane. “Victor has played very well and was close to selection for the original Tri-Nations squad. He is a lineout option and Liam did not quite tick all the boxes in the last Test.”
New Zealand won its only World Cup title in 1987 when it co-hosted the inaugural tournament with Australia. The All Blacks open this year’s edition Sept. 9 against Tonga at Auckland’s Eden Park.
“It’s an incredibly exciting time for the team and a unique opportunity to represent New Zealand at home,” Henry said. “We know the country is getting excited by what lies ahead. There’s a real buzz around.”
The All Blacks squad is in Brisbane preparing for the Tri-Nations decider against Australia in four days.
Forwards: John Afoa, Anthony Boric, Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Keven Mealamu, Kieran Read, Brad Thorn, Adam Thomson, Samuel Whitelock, Ali Williams, Tony Woodcock, Victor Vito.
Backs: Daniel Carter, Jimmy Cowan, Israel Dagg, Andy Ellis, Zac Guildford, Richard Kahui, Cory Jane, Mils Muliaina, Ma’a Nonu, Colin Slade, Conrad Smith, Isaia Toeava, Piri Weepu, Sonny Bill Williams.