22 Jun 2011

First players called into All Blacks camp - but no Donald

6:48 pm on 22 June 2011

The All Blacks coach Graham Henry says the decision to not pick Chiefs first five Stephen Donald for the All Blacks first training camp of the year is based on form and not his reported decision move to England.

Henry has said his preference is to pick players who'll be staying on to play in New Zealand after World Cup, with Donald having reportedly signed a two year deal with English club Bath.

Henry's named 25 players, not involved in Super rugby playoffs, for the first of two pre-Tri-Nations camps in Wellington next week.

The Highlanders Colin Slade and the Hurricanes Aaron Cruden are the two first fives selected.

Henry says it was difficult telling Donald, who's played 22 tests, that he's not wanted.

The squad is: Jimmy Cowan, Tom Donnelly, Jarrad Hoeata, Colin Slade, Ben Smith and Adam Thomson head north from the Highlanders, while Aaron Cruden, Hosea Gear, Andrew Hore, Cory Jane, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Neemia Tialata, Victor Vito and Piri Weepu join camp from the Hurricanes and Ben Afeaki, Hikawera Elliot, Richard Kahui, Brendon Leonard, Liam Messam, Mils Muliaina and Sitiveni Sivivatu arrive from the Chiefs, along with injured players Israel Dagg, Isaia Toeava and Tony Woodcock will also take part in the two-day camp.

The second camp will also be held in Wellington in early July, with the All Blacks Tri-Nations squad to be named on Sunday July 10th.

Henry says the camps are a key part of their preparation for the season and will give them a great opportunity to assess where a number of players are at after a demanding Super Rugby season.

He says the camps will involve mainly skill-based training and New Zealand Sevens Coach Gordon Tietjens, who recently led his side to their ninth Sevens World Series title, will take a training run on day two of the camp.

They will also give the All Blacks medical staff the chance to assess those injured players, as well as others carrying niggles.