Former rugby league star Sonny Bill Williams has been named in New Zealand’s 30-man squad for their end-of-season tour of the northern hemisphere but there is no place for Aaron Cruden, Robbie Fruean or Colin Slade.
Williams, 25, has impressed All Blacks coach Graham Henry with his ability to break tackles and with his huge strength and ability to offload.
Recalled to the side are half-back Andy Ellis, fly-half Stephen Donald, wing Hosea Gear, loose forwards Liam Messam and Daniel Braid and hooker Hika Elliot.
Returning from injury are Sitiveni Sivivatu, who will play for Waikato over the next two weekends in the ITM Cup before joining the tour in London, and hooker Andrew Hore, although he requires clearance from his specialist to play.
Henry made two difficult phone calls to Cruden and Slade, who were overlooked due to the fact Donald has played so well for his Waikato side since returning from injury.
Fruean had been a selection away from inclusion but the choice of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, world-class performers, and of Isaia Toeava and Williams had shut him out.
Toeava showed he had not lost any of his talent when coming back from injury two weeks ago.
The All Blacks suffered a blow yesterday when Piri Weepu broke his ankle playing for Wellington. He will be out of action for six months.
New Zealand squad:
Forwards: John Afoa, Anthony Boric, Daniel Braid, Tom Donnelly, Hikawera Elliot, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Keven Mealamu, Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Brad Thorn, Samuel Whitelock, Tony Woodcock.
Backs: Andy Ellis, Daniel Carter, Jimmy Cowan, Stephen Donald, Hosea Gear, Cory Jane, Alby Mathewson, Mils Muliaina, Ma’a Nonu, Josevata Rokocoko, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Conrad Smith, Isaia Toeava, Sonny Bill Williams.