WELLINGTON: The All Blacks have dropped five players in a 34-man squad named Wednesday for the upcoming Bledisloe Cup Tests against Australia.
Shannon Frizell, Dalton Papalii, Josh Ioane, Asafo Aumua and Karl Tu’inukuafe all failed to make the cut, denting their prospects of heading to Japan for the Rugby World Cup later this year.
The players named Wednesday will face Australia in the Bledisloe Cup opener in Perth on August 10, which also doubles as a Rugby Championship match, and a second Test in Auckland on August 17.
The Wallabies have not won the Bledisloe since 2002 and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the New Zealanders saw retaining the trophy as second only to defending the World Cup in their priorities for 2019.
“Bledisloe Cup Tests are always massive Tests,” he said.
“We know that the Wallabies will be confident after their win over Argentina and desperate to win this first match, so we’re looking forward to getting to Perth and getting into our Test preparation.”
Star centre Sonny Bill Williams was named in the squad but will miss the Perth Test as he plays domestic rugby in a bid to overcome fitness issues.
Fly-half Josh Ioane was not named in the squad but has been invited to join the All Blacks’ training camp to further his development.
Hansen initially had a 39-man squad for the opening Rugby Championship fixtures and will wield the axe again next month when he unveils his 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup.
Forwards: Dane Coles, Liam Coltman, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Atu Moli, Angus Ta’avao, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Barrett, Patrick Tuipulotu, Samuel Whitelock, Jackson Hemopo, Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Luke Jacobson, Kieran Read (captain), Ardie Savea, Matt Todd.
Backs: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Braydon Ennor, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece, Ben Smith.