Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Wily Weepu back in frame to face Pumas and Boks

Piri Weepu is back in the frame for the All Blacks.  Photo / Michael Cunningham
Piri Weepu is back in the frame for the All Blacks. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Piri Weepu returns and Richie McCaw will travel away for the All Blacks' last leg of the Rugby Championship, while Ma'a Nonu's Super 15 future remains in limbo.

The shock return of the experienced Weepu comes because uncapped squad member TJ Perenara has a stress fracture in his lower left leg which will take him out of rugby for at least six weeks.

That timeframe will put his place on the end of year tour in some doubt with the All Blacks' first game in Tokyo on November 2.

"We have selected Piri as a replacement for two reasons. One, given the environments we are going into, it would be unfair to bring in a novice halfback and secondly, we have also seen advances in his game in the areas we asked him to improve in," coach Steve Hansen said.

Nonu heads away with the squad tomorrow for Argentina and South Africa and while he has accrued 82 test caps he remains a Super Rugby pariah.

NZRU boss Steve Tew refused to comment on the situation or give any details about the impasse.

Any explanation was neither fair nor legal, he said, but he acknowledged the issues if Nonu played offshore next season before any further All Black duty. The NZRU had clear eligibility policies involving residency and playing in preceding domestic tournaments.

However the board had discretionary powers, which they had used when Luke McAlister returned from overseas in 2009 and played for the All Blacks.

"At the end of the day we have a very, very firm policy that you have to play in New Zealand to be an All Black.

"We believe that has held us in incredibly good stead in the retention of a lot more players than most people thought we were going to be able to keep playing in this country after particularly the last World Cup."

Injured captain McCaw will fly with the squad to Argentina where the All Blacks will meet the Pumas at La Plata on September 29.

"With Richie we believe that the best chance of having him available to play against South Africa is by having him travel with the squad and getting 'hands-on' treatment from the All Blacks medical staff," Hansen explained.

A decision on whether McCaw will be ready to play the Springboks the following week in Johannesburg will be left as late as possible. If he does not make the deadline, Matt Todd will fly out to join the squad in South Africa.

The squad announcement yesterday confirmed Tom Taylor's selection as a five-eighths replacement for an injured Daniel Carter.

Discussions with former All Black loose forward Jerome Kaino, who is reportedly keen to return to New Zealand from Japan, were continuing.

The test programme for the next two years had been decided and would be released in the next month.

There was a chance the All Blacks could play in San Francisco next year but there was also interest in New York.

Squad: Israel Dagg, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden, Tom Taylor, Aaron Smith, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Piri Weepu, Kieran Read, Liam Messam, Richie McCaw, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Jeremy Thrush, Tony Woodcock, Owen Franks, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Wyatt Crockett, Dane Coles, Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu.

- NZ Herald

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