Dan Carter, Sonny Bill Williams named in All Blacks squad
Centurion All Blacks star given chance to prove fitness ahead of November tour to the northern hemisphere
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has named Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams in a 34-man squad boasting 1,249 Test caps for their four-match northern hemisphere tour in November.
Crusaders outside-half Carter, who has not played for the All Blacks since making his 100th appearance in their 30-22 win over England at Twickenham almost a year ago, remains an injury doubt after breaking his leg in the Super Rugby final in August, but will be given a chance to prove his fitness before the team flies to the USA.
“He’s been training without being able to play because he’s had a bit of nerve damage to the leg he broke,” Hansen said.
“He’s getting better and better all the time and he’s extremely confident of being able to play.
“He knows his body better than anybody and if he’s confident, I’m confident. We’ll give him until the last minute if we have to.”
Williams, who was part of the 2011 Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks squad and last featured for them in 2012, came back to union earlier this month after a two-year spell in Australia’s National Rugby League.
His only action has been with Counties Manukau in the national provincial competition, but has a deal with the All Blacks and the Chiefs for 2015 and 2016, and could make a swift return to international action as the world champions begin their build-up to next year’s tournament in England.
With Carter joining Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett as the All Blacks’ options at 10, it means Colin Slade, Saturday’s match-winning hero against Australia, misses out unless Carter should fail to recover for the tour which begins in Chicago on 1 November.
Another surprise inclusion is Luke Romano, the lock, who also broke his ankle playing for the Crusaders in May, but Hansen revealed that the selectors felt it was important to get him reintegrated with the All Blacks systems with a reduced international schedule ahead of the Rugby World Cup, and hopes the forward will feature in at least one game on this tour.
Flanker Steven Luatua is another player to miss out, with the Hurricanes blindside flanker Victor Vito – who played against England twice in June – preferred having recovered from a neck injury and given a chance to show what he can do.
Dane Coles, the Hurricanes hooker, who was taken off during the All Blacks’ 29-28 win over the Wallabies with a shoulder injury, and his club team-mate Cory Jane, the wing/full-back, who suffered a head knock in the same match, have both been named in the touring squad, but may not be available for the match against the USA.
“It’s been a really tough squad to pick,” Hansen added. “Not because we don’t have enough talent but because we’ve got more than enough. Some good men have missed out.
Scotland name their autumn international squad on Monday lunchtime, with England and Wales both set to confirm their squads on Tuesday.
New Zealand Touring Squad (34)
Forwards: Dane Coles, Nathan Harris, Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Jeremy Thrush, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Victor Vito.
Backs: Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Augustine Pulu, Beauden Barrett, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Ryan Crotty, Malakai Fekitoa, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea, Ben Smith.
Sat 1 November vs US Eagles @ Soldier Field, Chicago
Sat 8 November vs England @ Twickenham, London
Sat 15 November vs Scotland @ BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Sat 22 November vs Wales @ Millennium Stadium, Cardiff