All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen says it will be hard for the five players dropped from the Rugby Championship squad today to make the Rugby World Cup later this year but the door will remain open.
The All Blacks named a 34-man squad for the two Bledisloe Cup test matches in Perth and Auckland next month. Five players have been omitted from the initial squad of 39 players named at the start of the Rugby Championship: Shannon Frizell, Dalton Papalii, Josh Ioane, Asafo Aumua and Karl Tu'inukuafe.
It will hurt their chances of making the 31-man Rugby World Cup squad to be named next month as they will need to impress at Mitre 10 Cup level to make their way back into the squad.
Hansen said they would still make it to Japan.
"They can jump back in the mix but it's obviously getting harder because we're trying to narrow it down. We've got two big games coming up, then we'll reflect and get it down to 31," Hansen said.
"They'll take the opportunities they get through Mitre 10 Cup and play particularly well. Might be injuries. There's a number of things that could arise."
Hansen said Atu Moli got the nod ahead of Tu'inukuafe.
"It's not that he's [Tu'inukuafe] done anything wrong. We've said that we want mobile ball playing props who can also do their core roles. We're still pretty keen on Atu and I guess there's only room for six [props] there and at the World Cup we can only take five so we've still got some culling to do."
Before the culling and the World Cup squad announcement, expected at the end of August, the All Blacks face two Bledisloe Cup tests.
"Bledisloe Cup Tests are always massive tests. We know that the Wallabies will be confident after their win over Argentina and desperate to win this first match, so we're looking forward to getting to Perth and getting into our test preparation," Hansen said.
"The Bledisloe Cup is the second most important trophy for us, after the Rugby World Cup, and we're really looking forward to the next two Tests coming up. Two weeks together will give us solid preparation towards growing our game understanding and getting our execution honed, so that's exciting.
"The last time the All Blacks played in Perth was way back in 1992 (against a Western Australia side) but this will be an historic first Test for us in the city, so we're also looking forward to catching up with our fans over there."
Hansen further added that first five-eighth Ioane had also been invited to assemble with the squad to continue his development.
Meanwhile, Nepo Laulala and Sonny Bill Williams will both play for Counties Manukau in a pre-Mitre 10 Cup season game on Saturday. Laulala will then join the squad in Perth, while Williams will stay and play Counties Manukau's Mitre 10 Cup season opener on Saturday August 10, before joining the squad in Auckland for the second Bledisloe Cup Test week.
The squad is as follows:
Hookers: Dane Coles, Liam Coltman and Codie Taylor.
Props: Owen Franks, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Atu Moli, Angus Ta'avao and Ofa Tuungafasi.
Locks: Scott Barrett, Jackson Hemopo, Patrick Tuipulotu and Samuel Whitelock.
Loose forwards: Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Luke Jacobson, Kieran Read, Ardie Savea and Matt Todd.
Halfbacks: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith and Brad Weber.
First five-eighths: Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga.
Midfielders: Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown and Sonny Bill Williams.
Utility backs: Braydon Ennor and Jordie Barrett.
Outside backs: George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece and Ben Smith.