Henry happy with All Blacks blend for RWC

(RUGBYWORLDCUP.COM) Tuesday 23 August 2011
Henry happy with All Blacks blend for RWC
Israel Dagg proved his return to fitness with an impress display in South Africa last weekend

All Blacks coach Graham Henry admitted it was “an incredibly difficult process” to select the 30-man squad charged with ending New Zealand’s 24-year wait for a second Rugby World Cup success.

The tournament hosts have selected the most experienced All Blacks squad in history with 1,137 Tests between them with nine players boasting over 50 caps with captain Richie McCaw and Mils Muliana the most capped players in New Zealand history on 97.

McCaw, Muliaina, Daniel Carter, Keven Mealamu and Ali Williams will all be playing in their third Rugby World Cups, with a further seven involved in their second tournament. This experience is contrasted by exciting youngsters like Israel Dagg, Sam Whitelock and Zac Guildford all preparing for their first experience on Rugby’s greatest stage.

With a talent of riches in several positions, particularly the back three, there were always going to be players unlucky to miss out with wings Hosea Gear, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Ben Smith all having been involved with the All Blacks in 2011 only to miss out on RWC selection.

Others to miss out are prop Wyatt Crockett, second row Jarrad Hoeata and loose forward Liam Messam, the latter to one of the squad bolters in Victor Vito, who did enough on the Tri Nations trip to South Africa last week to secure a spot.

Anthony Boric, who will return to action for North Harbour in this weekend’s ITM Cup match against Wellington, was not considered for All Black selection earlier in the year after suffering a foot injury in Super Rugby, but now fit has got the nod in the second row.

Experience and youthful enthusiasm

“Firstly, I would like to congratulate all those players selected. It’s an incredibly exciting time for the team and a unique opportunity to represent New Zealand at home. The players will be facing the ultimate rugby challenge – playing for the most coveted trophy in world rugby, the Rugby World Cup,” said Henry.

“At the same time I want to pay tribute to those players who have missed out on selection. It was an incredibly difficult process; all the players who missed selection are not only outstanding players but special people. We are close as a group which made this selection all the more difficult.”

“Generally, this team has been selected on current form. We believe there is a good balance; 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.

“There is also a balance in the fact that we have players who are specialists in their position while others have utility value and can cover a number of positions, so we have the players to cover any possibilities which may be thrown up during the tournament.”

New Zealand will be hoping that history repeats itself and the class of 2011 can replicate the achievements of their 1987 counterparts by lifting the Webb Ellis Cup on home soil and avoiding the agony of another premature RWC exit.

“We have been receiving fantastic support from New Zealanders, we know the country is getting excited by what lies ahead – there is a real buzz around – and the players are really looking forward to soaking up the off–field atmosphere with our home fans.”

The All Blacks will face Tonga in the opening match of RWC 2011 at Eden Park on 9 September, but before then have the small matter of a Tri Nations title decider with Australia in Brisbane on Saturday.

New Zealand squad for RWC 2011:

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 and 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 and Sonny Bill Williams.

Squad subject to RWCL approval