Kerr-Barlow rewarded for hard work
Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow's hard work has paid off with his call into the Bledisloe Cup squad for Test matches against Australia over the next two weekends.
When the All Blacks reassembled in Auckland on Sunday, Kerr-Barlow, who played two games for the Maori All Blacks, and some club rugby since coming back from injury, was joined by Highlanders wing Patrick Osborne who has been given a chance to add to his exposure to the squad.
Halfback Andy Ellis dropped out of the squad along with wing Cory Jane who continues to battle injury.
Coach Steve Hansen said Osborne's call-up was more for the future than for the Rugby World Cup.
"With Waisake out three months and Cory still struggling with his injury we just wanted to make sure we had someone else that has been in the environment," he said.
"Cory's problem is he has been repeatedly injured this year and it's a tournament you don't really want to be taking high-risk athletes to because once you lose them they are gone for the competition," he said.
Hansen said if the All Blacks needed someone from outside the named team, they could call on players who had been part of the group and who felt comfortable in it.
Hansen called it 'pre-planning'.
Ellis had done all that he could, and by having a looking at Kerr-Barlow, the selectors would have a chance to assess their options for the World Cup side which is named on August 31.
Meanwhile, second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu has been cleared of significant damage to his shoulder after scans but whether he will be considered for the Sydney game at the weekend was still to be decided.
"We're not going to risk him if he's not right," Hansen said. "There's a big season ahead, and we've got plenty of cover there so we'll see how it goes."
Prop Charlie Faumuina is back after recovering from neck surgery but was regarded as unlikely to feature in the Bledisloe Cup contests and may have to come back via the ITM Cup.
Hansen said Faumuina's cover player, Nepo Laulala, had been impressive.
"The hardest part for those tight forwards when they come in is picking up the understanding of how we're playing. But he seems to have done that okay. He's a good athlete and he has certainly scrummed well enough," he said.
Utility outside back Nehe Milner-Skudder is over the rib injury that has so far denied him the chance that Hansen said all members of the original 41-man squad would have before the naming of the World Cup side. That would come in one or other of the Tests and would be based on observing him at training.
Hansen said he wouldn't be looking for 'something special' from players to force their way into contention. That attitude was a fallacy he said, because when players tried to do something, they didn't.
"All our team members need to understand, and I think they are starting to, is that they have just got to do their own job. There's plenty of good players around them and if everyone does their own job and they've prepared well then we've got plenty of talent to get the job done, and then special things will happen because of that," he said.
The squad preparing in Auckland this week before flying to Sydney on Wednesday is:
Dane Coles, Hikawera Elliot, Keven Mealamu, Codie Taylor; Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Tony Woodcock; James Broadhurst, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Jeremy Thrush, Samuel Whitelock; Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Victor Vito; Tawera Kerr-Barlow, TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith; Beauden Barrett, Daniel Carter, Colin Slade, Lima Sopoaga; Ryan Crotty, Malakai Fekitoa, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams; Israel Dagg, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Patrick Osborne, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea, Ben Smith.