ABs squad launch crashes AirNZ safety ad

6:06 pm on 31 August 2015

OPINION - Deep in the bowels of the Beehive last night, Air New Zealand unfortunately found out that they'd made a particularly serious casting error for their latest passenger safety video.

Israel Dagg

Israel Dagg, who didn't make the cut. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Israel Dagg, who stars in the national carrier's latest big budget production, was notably absent when the NZ Rugby representative read out the 31 names of the men tasked with defending our Rugby World Cup title.

Wonder how the rest of the team will feel when he's telling them to buckle up when they fly out.

The squad itself is actually pretty predictable, with the selectors clearly going for experience in the key positions and only really leaving the back three up to the public's imagination.

The starting front row of Tony Woodcock, Dane Coles and Owen Franks is pretty established but it was a bit disappointing to see Nepo Laulala miss out.

Ben Franks presumably makes it because the selectors can't remember which is the good one out of him and his brother. Hint: Ben's the one with the history of giving away stupid penalties.

All Blacks brothers Ben, front, and Owen Franks.

All Blacks brothers Ben, front, and Owen Franks. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The starting locks may as well have been chosen two years ago, such is Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock's dominance but Luke Romano can look forward to a bit of game time.

Another area of predictability is the loose forwards; the faith shown in Liam Messam has been obvious over the past couple of seasons so it's no shock to see him there. He and Sam Cane will be doing the pickup work off the bench for Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino.

Aaron Smith's durability meant many thought the selectors would only take two halfbacks, so Tawera Kerr-Barlow could probably count himself lucky. TJ Perenara is the clear backup though, so Kerr-Barlow will spend most of his time running the water.

They'll be distributing to Dan Carter mainly but the lucky one in this group is Colin Slade.

Slade and Beauden Barrett's utility value nod over the highly impressive Lima Sopoaga. Of course, we can only assume Steve Hansen has Stephen Donald's number handy if he needs another miracle.

All Black Ma'a Nonu

All Black Ma'a Nonu Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Like the locks, the midfield would have been picked a long time ago. Ma'a Nonu is in potentially the best form of his life but the same can't be said of Conrad Smith. He'll have bad memories of the last time he was at Twickenham, when he got burned on the outside by English winger and Mr Bean lookalike Jonny May.

While it's unlikely Smith will get dropped, if Malakai Fekitoa causes carnage in pool play it will get people talking at least. Nonu would need to get hurt for Sonny Bill Williams to feature in anything important but he'll look good and sell some jerseys at least.

Waisake Naholo, whose recovery from a fractured leg has been unbelievable, won't actually going to be ready until the third game, so that gives a strong hint that he will be in consideration when things get serious. Nehe Milner-Skudder's ridiculous form this year makes it hard to leave him out, so will they consider dropping Julian Savea?

Unthinkable as that may seem, the selection of Naholo is a clear message that The Bus needs to regain some form, fast.

Despite the slight areas of conjecture, this is an extremely strong All Black team.

They've future-proofed their side so well that Aaron Cruden is the only injured player who you would say would definitely be there if he were fit. In fact, the amount of talent they're leaving back in New Zealand is so deep that they could probably send another squad that would be highly likely to make the final.

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Jamie Wall is a writer for RugbyWrapUp.com, a United States-based site which covers the game worldwide. He's played his whole life, has ridden the emotional roller-coaster of being a Wellington supporter, and once got to take the Ranfurly Shield home.

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