Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Nine senior All Blacks to skip Japan test

Nine senior players head for France but Carter to join squad to Japan.

Cory Jane returns for the test in Dunedin. Photo / Getty Images
Cory Jane returns for the test in Dunedin. Photo / Getty Images

Nine All Blacks will fly to France after the rest of their teammates head to Japan as the selectors juggle a range of issues with their expanded touring squad.

Further complications are likely because some of the 36-strong All Black group will want to play in the ITM Cup final on the weekend the All Blacks assemble.

That All Black squad for tests against Japan, France, England and Ireland is announced on Sunday after the All Blacks meet the Wallabies for the third time this season, in Dunedin.

The tourists assemble in Auckland a week later and coach Steve Hansen will allow those who were not regular members of the All Black squad throughout the Rugby Championship to play in the provincial final.

If wider training group players like Luke Whitelock or Ryan Crotty are picked for the All Blacks' tour and are also in the provincial final, they will be allowed to finish their ITM Cup commitments.

Two games from Cory Jane for Wellington after most of the year out with a knee injury have been enough to return the wing to the All Blacks for the test in Dunedin.

That is limited preparation for a test or a tour but Jane will not be released to Wellington if they beat Counties on Sunday and make the provincial final.

The wing replaces Conrad Smith, who is on leave until next year.

Those potential issues, puzzles and a host of injury assessments will occupy a chunk of the All Black selectors' time as they prepare for the test on Saturday and the tour squad announcement the next day.

Plans keep changing. Originally Daniel Carter was going to bypass Japan and head to France with the smaller group of senior players.

However he has not played since injuring his shoulder in the Eden Park win against the Springboks and the coaches think it would be better to give him some work against Japan before they head for Europe.

The All Blacks will take five props in their 27 to Japan but that list is unlikely to include Owen Franks, who will not play in Dunedin because of his recent run of groin and other injuries.

Injured All Blacks Luke Romano (groin), TJ Perenara (foot), Franks and Carter will undergo fitness testing this week while other locking contender Dominic Bird is fit to return to ITM Cup work after chest surgery.

Senior All Black forwards Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock have signed on with the NZRU until the end of the 2017 season, in deals that will cover the next World Cup and the next Lions tour.

"Not only are they part of the current success of the team but it means we have a nucleus of experienced players to take the team into the future beyond 2015 which is fantastic," coach Hansen said.

Read has played 57 tests and captains the side when Richie McCaw is unavailable.

Whitelock is only 25 but is the side's senior lock and has been capped 47 times since his debut three years ago.

Preparation from the All Blacks and Wallabies has altered for this Dunedin test as they look at their itineraries which do not finish until late November.

The All Blacks fly south tomorrow for work the next day while the Wallabies fly to Queenstown on Wednesday and stay there until travelling into Dunedin on Friday.

All Black squad

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

- NZ Herald

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