4 Jul 2009

Eaton, Gear return to All Blacks squad

10:11 pm on 4 July 2009

A 30-strong All Blacks squad for the upcoming Tri Nations has been named, with lock Jason Eaton and winger Hosea Gear both back in the national team.

Head coach Graham Henry has kept faith with most of the players who started against France and Italy, with captain Richie McCaw, fellow loose forward Rodney So'oialo and wing Sitiveni Sivivatu back from injury as expected.

The dropping of the Waikato loose forward Liam Messam and wing Lelia Masaga are other key features of the squad, which is made up of 17 forwards and 13 backs.

Eaton and Gear last played for the All Blacks on the 2008 Grand Slam tour.

The pair returned to New Zealand on Saturday after helping the Junior All Blacks to victory in the recent IRB Pacific Nations Cup in the Pacific Islands.

At least nine frontline players, including flyhalf Daniel Carter and lock Ali Williams, were not available for selection because of injuries.

Two of the players selected are still nursing problems with utility back Isaia Toeava likely to miss the first three tests of the Tri-Nations with a stress fracture in his left foot and flyhalf Stephen Donald recovering from a hamstring strain.

The All Blacks open the Tri Nations on Saturday 18 July when they take on the Wallabies at Eden Park in the first Bledisloe Cup clash.

The squad: John Afoa - Auckland, Jimmy Cowan - Southland, Wyatt Crockett - Canterbury, Aled de Malmanche - Waikato, Stephen Donald - Waikato, Jason Eaton - Taranaki, Bryn Evans - Hawke's Bay, Owen Franks - Canterbury, Hosea Gear - Wellington, Andrew Hore - Taranaki, Cory Jane - Wellington, Jerome Kaino - Auckland, Tanerau Latimer - Bay of Plenty, Brendon Leonard - Waikato, Luke McAlister - North Harbour, Richie McCaw - Canterbury (captain), Keven Mealamu - Auckland, Mils Muliaina - Waikato, Ma'a Nonu - Wellington, Kieran Read - Canterbury, Josevata Rokocoko - Auckland, Isaac Ross - Canterbury, Sitiveni Sivivatu - Waikato, Conrad Smith - Wellington, Rodney So'oialo - Wellington, Brad Thorn - Canterbury, Isaia Toeava - Auckland, Neemia Tialata - Wellington, Piri Weepu - Wellington, Tony Woodcock - North Harbour.