Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Europe tour chance for rising talent

One of the extra three players should be Auckland lock Ali Williams. Photo / Getty Images
One of the extra three players should be Auckland lock Ali Williams. Photo / Getty Images

Just over a week from now, the All Blacks squad to tour Europe will be announced.

The NZRU has agreed 32 players should make the trip for tests against Scotland, Italy, Wales and England.

That increased quota came after requests to pick larger squads for the June tests and the Rugby Championship were rebuffed.

The tradeoff was an extra few for the final workload of the season when some younger players could be brought into the All Blacks systems which have been so successful this season.

Lately the All Blacks have been traipsing around with a group of 29 players which gets cut to 26 for sorties like tonight's square-off with the Wallabies in Brisbane.

Prop Wyatt Crockett, loosie Adam Thomson and five-eighths Beauden Barrett were left behind to get stuck into some provincial rivalry.

If we accept the squad in Brisbane plus the trio at home will go to Europe then the selectors are looking for an extra three players.

How will that play out?

One of those they want is Auckland lock Ali Williams.

In the past few years Williams has been nobbled by injury but his return for the World Cup season encouraged the new selection panel to persevere with him.

Williams' form in the Super rugby series mirrored the Blues' patchy work but he got the nod for the Irish series until a knee problem snuffed him out.

Meanwhile Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick and Luke Romano have been in strong touch as the selectors have kept swapping them to maintain their freshness and competition.

They will need help on tour and Williams will be the name in the frame.

However his latest mishap with a disc problem in his back must increase those doubts.

The selectors have been sharp this year in choosing some new talent like Aaron Smith, Barrett, Sam Cane, Retallick, Romano and reviving others' careers.

They will have another lock on the radar and Williams' latest trouble might be the chance to check their instincts once more.

Another halfback is needed and Tawera Kerr-Barlow was the young man asked to train with the squad several times this season.

Those standby roles should turn into full-blown duty.

That leaves one vacancy.

If they are taking three halfbacks, then a third hooker should travel to help centurion Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore and pick up invaluable tuition from the experienced duo.

Hika Elliot, Dane Coles, Tom McCartney, Quentin MacDonald? Lottery time.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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