I think Reuben Thorne has been treated poorly by All Black selectors. He has been hard done by on the selection front but I think he was treated even worse in the way he missed selection.
I hope Troy Flavell performs for the All Blacks because he's gained that selection after playing only a limited role this season. As for Jerome Kaino, he has yet to prove himself at Super 14 level, let alone international level.
It's fair to say that Reuben doesn't fit the type of loose forward the selectors have been looking at - big ball players like Jerry Collins. It's true that Reuben couldn't be called an impact player, whereas Flavell and Kaino could be.
But surely Thorne must be in the top three or four in that position? For goodness sake, Graham Henry announced 39 names last week - 45 or 46 if you count the guys not selected because of injury. And Reuben Thorne wasn't good enough to be in that company?
Thorne has done everything asked of him this year. He's had a fine season, he's fronted up on every game for the Crusaders and played excellently. He's got lineout ball, he's done a lot of close-quarter tackling and tidying up work he does so well and, while Richie McCaw is responsible for many of the turnovers that the Crusaders are famed for, Thorne also delivers a lot of turnover ball.
Take a look at videos of the games where McCaw was absent. Tanerau Latimer came in and played very well - and one of the reasons is the work that Thorne does to set the platform to let loosies like Latimer and McCaw excel. He is an 80-minute man who works hard all the way.
That sort of 80-minute player is now less common and old once-was'ers like me feel uncomfortable about All Black jerseys being handed out for players coming on for the last 10 minutes of a test - especially when you have real workers like Thorne who do the business for 80 minutes.
I thought he has also been a lot more active in running the ball up this year, responding to the selectors.
But, leaving selection aside for a moment, I reckon what they did to him was almost an insult.
To a player of Thorne's vintage, a Junior team means under-23s, not under-33s. Asking him to go into the Juniors, even as captain, means he wasn't just dropped, he was dropped from a great height.
John Mitchell, when he was All Black coach, got heaps of criticism for the way he handled Christian Cullen's axing from the All Blacks. OK, but Cullen - great player though he was - wasn't a former All Black captain like Thorne. Both Thorne and Mitch got it in the neck from the media but Henry and Co don't seem to be getting the same amount of criticism. From what we hear, Henry got in touch but there obviously wasn't good communication or Thorne would not have been so surprised.
It's a shame when things happen this way. They wouldn't have treated Zinzan Brooke that way, although I remember Taine Randell being treated poorly when he was dumped as All Black captain.
I remember when it happened to me. John Hart sent an email to the Crusaders saying they would be selecting a younger person in my position. Fair enough, I thought, I was 35 or 36. But then they selected Phil Coffin, a 32-year-old who had never been an All Black and became a 'one-tour wonder'.