With 51 players named yesterday in the extended All Blacks squad and eight rookies included, you may have been left a tad overwhelmed by all the comings and goings.

Here's an attempt to cut through the fat to get to the meat of the operation: This squad offers as much insight into the thinking of the ABs' brains trust by looking at those who missed the cut as those who made it. And there are a few.

Notable omissions:

Akira Ioane:

Such a curious case of obvious talent. Despite his presence in a much-improved Auckland side, has not done enough to shift thinking around his work-rate and attitude towards defence. Again left to chip away with New Zealand Maori.

Akira Ioane didn't make the 51-man squad for the end of the year tour. Photosport
Akira Ioane didn't make the 51-man squad for the end of the year tour. Photosport

Matt Duffie, Ben Lam, Solomon Alaimalo, Will Jordan:

Can't pick everyone of course but George Bridge's maiden call up and the return of David Havili put pay to this quartet's ambitions for now. Duffie made this squad last year – playing two non-test matches –and calls for Lam's inclusion mid-season were deafening. Tasman fullback Jordan is one for the future, having yet to feature beyond provincial rugby.

Brad Weber: Capped once three years ago in Samoa, Weber was first usurped by Chiefs team-mate Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi and now misses out to Crusaders pair Mitchell Drummond and Bryn Hall – his move from the Blues to the Crusaders bringing the ultimate reward.

Rob Thompson: Can't be far away after a breakout Super Rugby season for the Highlanders but, as Matt Proctor knows all too well, cracking the All Blacks' midfield can be a long slog.

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Squeezed from main squad to the fringe:

Nehe Milner-Skudder:

Ample attacking chances haven't flowed his way since returning from injury. Now finds himself out of the main group. Deadly step sure to savour the gallop against Japan but has been surpassed by Waisake Naholo and appears a victim of Damian McKenzie's versatility with the All Blacks selecting four outside backs in the core squad. Not out of the picture by any stretch but needs to find form soon.

Ngani Laumape: Gets a reprieve of sorts with Jack Goodhue out of the two-test Japanese leg while recovering from glandular fever but the clear fifth option (third at second-five behind Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty) and in danger of missing the World Cup cut. Destructive running game needs harnessing.


Luke Whitelock: Illness in Argentina, where slated to start at No 8 against the Pumas, has shunted him down the pecking order. Ardie Savea's performance at the back of the scrum in that test late last month, coupled with the return of Kieran Read and Liam Squire, seems to have altered thinking around the need for specialist cover at eight with Whitelock back on the outer.

Luke Whitelock was set to start in Argentina before pulling out of the test with illness. Photosport
Luke Whitelock was set to start in Argentina before pulling out of the test with illness. Photosport

Jackson Hemopo:

Two tests off the bench earlier this year only to be pushed out by Patrick Tuipulotu, Brodie Retallick, Vaea Fifita's promotion to the main squad and Dalton Papalii's sudden rise.

Tim Perry: Crusaders team-mate Joe Moody back on deck, and Ofa Tu'ungafasi humming along, Perry drops down the ranks. One glaring missed tackle on Siya Kolisi in Pretoria probably didn't help his cause.

Digging deep:

Jordan Taufua (arm), Shannon Frizell (shoulder) and Sam Cane (neck) all ruled out with injury, the All Blacks were forced to mine their loose forward stocks, and grant Matt Todd a special exemption to be selected from overseas.

The same could be said for the props. While heavy hitters Moody and Nepo Laulala return, the continued absences of Kane Hames (concussion) and Atu Moli (leg) resulted in many double taking when it came to Taranaki's Reuben O'Neill. Coaxed back from Australia, Tyrel Lomax was always going to make this grade at some point.

Tyrel Lomax in action for Tasman. Photosport
Tyrel Lomax in action for Tasman. Photosport

Reward for perseverance:

Papalii, Pakuranga's first home-grown All Black, naturally garnered most attention but if there is a feel-good story it came in the form of Gareth Evans, 27, and Matt Proctor, 25. Both have been on the scene for some time. Both, at some point no doubt, already considered moving abroad. But having stuck around they will both now be rewarded. Evans was a standout this season at the breakdown and in support in a Hurricanes pack that too often got pushed around while Proctor, a smart and versatile footballer, has bruised knuckles from knocking on the door.