Power-scrumming not everything for All Blacks
REACTION: Steve Hansen’s 34-man All Blacks squad for twin Bledisloe Cup Tests against the Wallabies is surprisingly missing power scrummager Karl Tu’inukuafe.
The All Blacks plan to defend the Bledisloe Cup and World Cup with high-octane rugby, which explains the surprise axing of Tu’inukuafe.
Tu’inukuafe was the biggest name missing after coach Steve Hansen trimmed his Rugby Championship squad of 39 down to 34.
Hansen’s cull also claimed flyhalf Josh Ioane, flanks Dalton Papali’i and Shannon Frizell and hooker Asafo Aumua.
Injured lock Brodie Retallick was missing, with the hope he will have recovered from a dislocated shoulder in time for the World Cup in seven weeks.
His squad place goes to Scott Barrett, who returns from a broken finger and could be fit to face the Wallabies in Perth on August 10.
The uncapped Ioane will travel to Perth in an observation role, with Hansen wary there is no specialist playmaking backup to Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga.
Hansen took no pleasure in omitting Tu’inukuafe, the fairytale story of 2018.
The former overweight nightclub bouncer began last year without a Super Rugby contract, but barged his way into playing 13 Tests, including starts against heavyweights England and Ireland in November.
However, Hansen said the selectors were impressed by the mobility of Chiefs No.1 Atu Moli, who was denied a shot at Test rugby last year by injury.
“It’s not that he [Tu’inukuafe] has done anything wrong,” Hansen told journalists.
“It’s just that we have said we want mobile ball-playing props that can also do their core roles, and we have been watching Atu Moli for quite some time.
“In today’s game, you need props who can do more than scrum and lift in line-outs.
“That’s been our challenge in the last 12 months, that we have put to our front row forwards.
“Some of them are progressing really well with it, and some of them are struggling.”
Hansen said the World Cup door hadn’t necessarily closed on the five dropped players but they would need to do something exceptional at provincial level or else rely on injuries to claim a place in the 31-strong World Cup squad announced in late August.