Spare a thought for Jordan Taufua – a member of a small, sad band: Chosen for the All Blacks but not an All Black.
Taufua, still only 27, missed out on this week's 39-strong All Blacks squad , joining a club no New Zealand rugby player wants to be a member of. Tradition has it that even if selected as an All Black, you do not actually become one until you take the field – if only for one minute of one match.
Taufua's luck was particularly bad. Named in the All Blacks' wider squad last year, he injured a calf muscle in All Blacks training and missed a possible test jersey against the French. He came back from that – and then broke an arm, surrendering an extremely likely berth in the touring squad to Europe.
Others have even sadder tales, such as Jason Spice and Ross Fraser. Spice was the Wellington and Hurricanes halfback flown to Argentina in 2001 as a replacement. He was on the bench for the last test against the Pumas but did not get on the field.
Passed over for the tour of Britain in 2002 when Steve Devine (Auckland) and Danny Lee (Otago) were taken in John Mitchell's development side, Spice was never again chosen for national honours, in spite of good performances in provincial and Super Rugby.
Fraser, a craggy blindside flanker, at least had the pleasure of hearing his name read out as an All Black in 1979, also for a test against Argentina.
The day of the announcement of the All Black squad, Fraser broke his leg playing for Taranaki against Counties. He managed to keep this fact from the selectors and, lying in hospital, had the satisfaction of hearing his name read out before the mortification of realising he would not be able to complete his dream. He also did not come close again.
If Spice and Fraser had been playing in more modern times, they would almost certainly have been All Blacks. Spice warmed the bench for 80 minutes while test halfback Mark Robinson played a full game – rare for international halfbacks these days.
Fraser got a boot to the head during the match, knocking him briefly unconscious. In these more concussion-aware days, he would have been pulled from the field and probably passed fit for the test. Instead, as was the fashion then, he shook off the knock, kept playing and broke his leg shortly afterwards.
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Injury also intervened with the All Black career of classy fullback David Halligan (Otago) who could have re-written All Black history. Named to play in the first test against Scotland in 1981, he injured his groin the day before the test. In came Allan Hewson who went on to score a then world record 26 points in a later test match and kicked the winning goal against the 1981 Springboks, as well as being the central figure in a fierce, long-running debate as to whether he or Robbie Deans was the better fullback. Halligan never again returned to All Blacks contention.
Ethics got in the way of Greg Denholm's All Black jersey. Named in 1976 as a replacement for Brad Johnstone on that year's tour of South Africa, the big Auckland prop declined – and was never again asked.
Newest member of the club is Hurricanes' flanker Brad Shields, who last year turned down an All Blacks injury call-up because he was in the process of accepting a place in the England team.
That's about it for the nearly men – although the Blues' Isa Nacewa deserves a nod in this context. Wanted by the All Black selectors for the World Cup in 2007, he was denied an All Blacks jersey by the fact he had turned out briefly for Fiji (two minutes, to be precise) four years previously. Rugby's strict eligibility rules meant he couldn't switch countries.
Luke McAlister made the 2007 World Cup squad but not before creating a bizarre record. Chosen by Sir Graham Henry in his inaugural year as All Blacks coach in 2004, McAlister went on the brief (four matches) end of year tour to Europe but a hamstring injury meant he did not play a game. Few – if any – have been on a full All Blacks tour and not played a match.
Taufua joins Waisake Naholo and Luke Whitelock as non-selections after earlier announcing they were heading to Europe to play next year, never a tactic likely to increase chances of All Blacks selection. Naholo is a bit unlucky; yet to hit top form (and fitness) this season, at his best he is a highly-talented finisher and an extra loose forward in the turnover stakes.
Other All Blacks briefly tried who now seem to have fallen by the wayside include loose forwards Dillon Hunt and Elliot Dixon, outside back Matt Duffie, halfback Mitchell Drummond, props Tim Perry and Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen. Those young enough to come again include prop Tyrell Lomax, first-five Brett Cameron, halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi and fullback David Havili (the last pair only 24).
There's a lot of talent there but, as the selected-but-never-played All Blacks know only too well, it's tough at the top.