Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Selection gap moves Hore's sunset further away

Andrew Hore. Photo / Getty Images
Andrew Hore. Photo / Getty Images

The fullstop on Andrew Hore's test rugby career may shift again.

Suggestions that Saturday's test against the Wallabies would be his All Black swansong have abated as the selectors' search for a replacement hooker continues.

Hore is 35 and does not have a Super 15 contract next season, and with a young family and farming duties beckoning, his international rugby shelf-life is shrinking.

He does not want to leave his Central Otago connections and accepts he is unlikely to have a place in 2015 World Cup plans.

The All Black panel has sifted through a range of younger contenders.

They had Dane Coles as an understudy to Hore and Keven Mealamu, and brought other young hookers Liam Coltman, Rhys Marshall and Nathan Harris, into All Black camps to assess their potential.

The selectors were impressed but not quite convinced any were ready for an upgrade.

Discussions this week will cover several topics - whether Hore has an appetite for another trip to Europe, whether it is wise to take Mealamu as the sole senior man for the set-piece battles, and the readiness of the young brigade for test combat.

There is an argument they all need to be told to condition themselves for a selection shootout in next season's Super 15 series, a result which will be made easier if Hore agrees to another European trip.

Plans are to take 36 players for the four-test expedition to Japan, France, England and Scotland.

Matt Todd has fallen off the contenders' list because of his torn chest muscle injury and others are facing fitness tests before they can be named in the squad.

Crusaders' locks Luke Romano (groin) and Dominic Bird (chest) remain on the cusp. If they are chosen, Steven Luatua can cover lock or Jeremy Thrush may be needed as cover.

Hurricanes' wing Cory Jane has proved his fitness in comeback ITM Cup work for Wellington, and is back with the squad in place of the sabbatical-bound Conrad Smith.

Halfback TJ Perenara is still marginal after the stress fracture in his left leg.

Ryan Crotty and Tom Taylor showed in their cameo Rugby Championship stints they were ready, and wider training group players Frank Halai, Francis Saili, Luke Whitelock and Joe Moody must also be close.

The selectors dropped Victor Vito mid-season and asked him to sharpen his physical impact in the ITM Cup.

They will now decide whether he has succeeded, while scrum coach Mike Cron will be busy evaluating an expanding group of props.

Owen Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Afeaki, Ben Franks and Jeff Toomaga-Allen work mostly on the right hand side of the scrum while Tony Woodcock, Wyatt Crockett and Moody cover loosehead.

Possible tour squad

Israel Dagg, Charles Piutau, Tom Taylor, Cory Jane, Frank Halai, Julian Savea, Ben Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Francis Saili, Ryan Crotty, Daniel Carter, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Piri Weepu, Kieran Read, Victor Vito, Luke Whitelock, Richie McCaw, Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Steven Luatua, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Dominic Bird, Owen Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Afeaki, Keven Mealamu, Andrew Hore, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks.

- NZ Herald

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