The All Blacks squad was named at The Beehive – New Zealand’s parliament building in Wellington – on Sunday night, and contained a handful of surprise inclusions and several more unlucky omissions.
Lima Sopoaga, who steered the Highlanders to Super XV glory and enjoyed a sparkling Test debut against South Africa at Ellis Park, lost out to the versatility and experience of Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade in the flyhalf mix behind Dan Carter.
I have no regrets I gave it my best crack all year and that's all I can ask. Go hard brothers bring it home. #AllblackEverything
— Lima Sopoaga (@LimaSopoaga) August 30, 2015
Winger/fullback Charles Piutau can be considered equally unfortunate after starring in his Test outings this season, including a man-of-the-match performance against the Springboks. The Blues gun was edged out by boom international rookies Nehe Milner-Skudder and Waisake Naholo, the latter making a miracle comeback after suffering a leg fracture on Test debut just six weeks ago.
congrats to all the brothers that made it @AllBlacks
— Charles Piutau (@CPiutau) August 30, 2015
Unlike the Wallabies, coach Steve Hansen and the New Zealand selectors have opted to take three specialist halfbacks and hookers. Tawera Kerr-Barlow nabbed the third halfback spot despite an injury-plagued season that saw him miss the Chiefs entire Super Rugby campaign, while Crusaders tyro Codie Taylor was something of a bolter as the third-choice hooker.
Test veterans Israel Dagg and Cory Jane were ultimately unable to overcome injury-ravaged Super Rugby seasons, despite impressive recent returns to ITM Cup action.
— Cory Jane (@CoryJane1080) August 30, 2015
Gutted to not be in the RWC2015 team but congrats and all the best @AllBlacks men.. it's been a hell of a journey cheers
— Israel Akuhata Dagg (@izzy_dagg) August 30, 2015
Arguably the most contentious selection in the forwards was choosing prop Charlie Faumuina over Nepo Laulala, while the All Blacks will take only three specialist locks to the tournament. Jerome Kaino can provide lock cover from the six-strong loose forward contingent, with Liam Messam getting the nod instead of the likes of Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush.
The All Blacks are overwhelming favourites to retain the World Cup crown they claimed on home soil in 2011, and are expected to breeze through their pool matches against Argentina, Tonga, Georgia and Namibia, before a like quarter-final meeting against either France or Ireland.
All Blacks Rugby World Cup Squad
Props: Tony Woodcock, Wyatt Crockett, Owen Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks
Hookers: Dane Coles, Keven Mealamu, Codie Taylor
Locks: Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano
Loose Forwards: Jerome Kaino, Liam Messam, Richie McCaw (c), Sam Cane, Kieran Read, Victor Vito
Halfbacks: Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow
First-Fives: Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade
Midfield Backs: Ma’a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa
Outside Backs: Waisake Naholo, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Julian Savea, Ben Smith