Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Which players will miss the cut?

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Sitivini Sivivatu. Photo / Getty Images
Sitivini Sivivatu. Photo / Getty Images

Four years ago, gangs of roadworkers would have struggled to patch the holes in Graham Henry's rotation arguments.

But we all move on and this time the selectors' plans for Port Elizabeth make sense. They are leaving behind perhaps eight players who would make the top All Black lineup. Certainly seven with Sitiveni Sivivatu's status being a wavering ratings graph.

The bulk of those left at home were on the Crusaders' perpetual odyssey this season and have more air points than John Travolta. How they whizzed around the world and managed to make it to the Super 15 final was extraordinary.

Unfortunately they sagged against a lesser-quality Reds side and maybe that result gave the All Black selectors the idea and impetus to rest the spine of their test side for Port Elizabeth.

Meanwhile the selectors can open their World Cup notebooks and check on those who have been absent for some time. Enter Israel Dagg, Isaia Toeava, Richard Kahui and Tony Woodcock, who have returned to club or provincial action after months of inactivity.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will be their audition arena, where performance rather than hope should be the arbiter. Especially for Dagg and Toeava, who are two players involved in the most monumental tussle for places in the World Cup back five.

The selectors have chosen eight players for those test duties this season whom they have to distil into five picks for the World Cup. Mils Muliaina is a certainty; now pick four others from Dagg, Toeava, Hosea Gear, Zac Guildford, Cory Jane, Ben Smith and Sivivatu.

The All Blacks are spoiled for choice in most positions for the World Cup though as everyone knows that does not equate to success.

There will be a number of players who will be grievously unlucky to miss the cut.

Richie McCaw is top drawer as a skipper and player while his Springbok and Wallaby counterparts do not measure up as strongly.

Bok leader John Smit is a quality leader whose legs and frame do not match his brain's commands, while Ricky Elsom does not appear to have grasped the playing or leadership mantle this year with the Wallabies.

You have to wonder whether, if the Wallabies come second tomorrow to the Boks, Robbie Deans might consider a change to Will Genia or James Horwill.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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