Read, a rangy blindside forward, is widely regarded as the successor to Jerry Collins but the 22-year-old has lost out to Highlanders newcomer, Adam Thomson.
Henry has included six first-time selections: Anthony Boric, Anthony Tuitavake, Rudi Wulf, Stephen Donald, Richard Kahui and Adam Thomson as the All Blacks begin a new four-year cycle towards the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Henry caused a stir in New Zealand last week with this initial squad selection that saw Nick Evans and Chris Masoe axed and Piri Weepu and Jason Eaton overlooked. But his comments on Jerry Collins evoked a strong reaction in yesterday’s Sunday News. A half page of letters displayed annoyance at Henry’s choice of words when the head coach said that even if Collins hadn’t announced his retirement, he wouldn’t have been in the frame for the 2008 All Blacks.
Richie McCaw is reinstated as captain and is one of just 16 players to return from last year’s World Cup squad of 30. Henry, meanwhile, has included seven members of the Super 14 champions, Canterbury Crusaders, in a squad decimated by the exodus of seven top All Blacks to the northern hemisphere and the retirement of Keith Robinson. Collins and Reuben Thorne have quite NZ rugby while injuries to Joe Rokocoko (knee), Tony Woodcock (toe) and Brendon Leonard (knee) leave the All Blacks short of experience for the Ireland match.
Woodcock has been ruled out of the Test with Ireland and is a doubt for the game against England because of a foot injury.
“It’s quite a serious injury I think, particularly in his position because pushing is pretty important in that area,” coach Graham Henry said. “He’s struggled with it for a month. He’s had injections to play and been wearing a boot after playing. We’re very keen to get him right.
“We don’t want to play him too early and if he does damage to it he’s out for the season.
“He won’t play against Ireland and we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Hurricanes prop John Schwalger has been called in as cover and will work alongside John Afoa, Neemia Tialata and Greg Somerville.
“The new players impressed in the Rebel Sport Super 14 and played their way into the squad,” said Henry. “A few of them were not in the frame at the beginning of the year, but they proved they were some of the form players in New Zealand rugby.”
Henry noted the first Iveco Series Test against Ireland would be a major challenge: “The Irish were strong when they came to New Zealand in 2006 and may be stronger this time. They’ve been in camp for a couple of weeks, except for their Munster players who were winning the European championship. We need to be very aware of the challenge and focused on the task.”
All Blacks squad
Backs: Leon MacDonald (Canterbury), Mils Muliaina (Waikato), Rudi Wulf (North Harbour), Sitiveni Sivivatu (Waikato), Anthony Tuitavake (North Harbour), Conrad Smith (Wellington), Richard Kahui (Waikato), Ma’a Nonu (Wellington), Stephen Donald (Waikato), Daniel Carter (Canterbury), Andy Ellis (Canterbury), Brendon Leonard (Waikato).
Forwards: Rodney So’oialo (Wellington), Sione Lauaki (Waikato), Richie McCaw (Canterbury, captain), Jerome Kaino (Auckland), Adam Thomson (Otago), Ali Williams (Tasman), Brad Thorn (Tasman), Anthony Boric (North Harbour), John Afoa (Auckland), Greg Somerville (Canterbury), Neemia Tialata (Wellington), Tony Woodcock (North Harbour), Keven Mealamu (Auckland), Andrew Hore (Taranaki).