Rugby: Don't give up hope yet, Hansen tells Super Rugby players

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen after today's announcement. Photo / Getty Images
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen after today's announcement. Photo / Getty Images

Just because you weren't named in the 38-strong training squad for the All Blacks today doesn't mean you won't be picked for the June tests against France.

That's the message from national coach Steve Hansen, who acknowledged that not every player in the All Black frame could be included for the pair of camps at Mt Manganui from May 19-21 and 26-28.

Only one openside flanker was named - Sam Cane - while four halfbacks were included and the outside back stocks have been tested this year due to a mounting injury toll and overseas moves.

Hansen told a press conference in Wellington this afternoon that he and his coaching staff had more than just Cane in their thoughts for the No 7 jersey against France next month.

"The other flankers we are looking at - Matt Todd, Luke Braid and Tanerau Latimer - we know really, really well," Hansen said.

"Obviously Lats has played for the All Blacks. Matt spent some time with us at the end of the World Cup and Luke was coached by [Ian Foster at the Chiefs]. We are limited to the number of players we could have at the camp and therefore we thought 'well, we know these guys and we'll just keep monitoring them on the field'."

The door has been left open for players who weren't included.

"If you're not in the 38, don't believe that you can't make the squad," Hansen said. "And we showed that last year when we picked people who didn't come to the camp."

Centre Tamati Ellison, leaving for Japan after the Super Rugby competition, could be one of those picked to meet France but won't be required at the camps, Hansen said.

Veteran hookers Andrew Hore and Keven Mealamu were named despite their advancing years, while Hurricanes rake Dane Coles is seen as the long-term solution.

There had been calls for Hansen to summon a young gun to provide some competition and depth in the middle of the front row but it doesn't appear that the likes of Liam Coltman, James Parsons or Codie Taylor are worth a look yet.

"The big thing there is we just don't think there's a young hooker ready to come in yet and our main focus is Dane Coles in that area," Hansen said. "We think we can bring him up to speed and use the other two as well, particularly early in the season we'll be happy with them."

Hansen said they wanted to keep faith with players who had served them well previously and even if their form had dipped with their franchises, they wanted to give them an opportunity to show their wares in the All Blacks environment.

In all, 10 uncapped players were named and Hansen will announce his squad for the three-test series against France on June 2 ahead of the first test at Eden Park on June 9 but he couldn't confirm today how large that squad would be.

Hansen also said he expected Richie McCaw to return to the field in some capacity ahead of the Rugby Championship but it remained to be seen whether that would be at club level or for the Crusaders.

Players attending the two camps are:
Blues: Frank Halai, Steven Luatua, Keven Mealamu, Charles Piutau, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, Piri Weepu and Ali Williams.
Chiefs: Ben Afeaki, Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Messam and Brodie Retallick.
Hurricanes: Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, Ben Franks, TJ Perenara, Julian Savea, Brad Shields, Conrad Smith, Jeff Toomaga-Allen and Victor Vito.
Crusaders: Dominic Bird, Daniel Carter, Wyatt Crockett, Israel Dagg, Owen Franks, Kieran Read, Luke Romano, Tom Taylor and Samuel Whitelock.
Highlanders: Hosea Gear, Andrew Hore, Ma'a Nonu, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith and Tony Woodcock

- APNZ

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