27 Jun 2010

Versatility vital for Tri Nations

8:54 pm on 27 June 2010

There've been some difficult selection decisions made over the All Blacks squad for the upcoming Tri Nations, with Graham Henry and the selectors going for versatility.

The Wellington and Hurricanes winger Hosea Gear's one to miss out despite some outstanding tryscoring feats for the New Zealand Maori, with Henry admitting Gear's unlucky, along with fellow flier Zac Guildford.

Henry says the midfielders Rene Ranger and Richard Kahui can also cover wing and with a squad of 28 that sort of versatility is needed.

He says Gear's provincial team-mate at fullback, Cory Jane, is considered a specialist right winger for the All Blacks. Joe Rokocoko's the other specialist outside paceman.

No.8 Kieran Reed's considered as cover for skipper Richie McCaw at openside flanker, with the best skillset to cover at No.7 of the other loose forwards, while flankers Victor Vito, Liam Messam and Jerome Kaino can all cover No.8 too.

Messam's been rewarded for his strong play in his New Zealand Maori side's victories over Ireland and England. Forwards coach Steve Hansen says Messam offers a little bit extra around the field as a ballcarrier and is more physical than the dumped Adam Thomson, who's been given some work-ons.

Hansen says Thomson's All Black career isn't over and he'll be considered again.

John Afoa's considered as cover at hooker as well as both front row berths, and although the Auckland forward has a lot of work to do according to the head coach, that versatility could prove vital in freeing up another halfback position for the World Cup squad.

Aaron Cruden was another to be considered in another role, with the rookie first five a "left field" option at halfback should it be necessary. The Manawatu No.10's played at No.9 at high school level.