All Blacks shock the world by leaving out star wings

Everyone capable of distinguishing a rugby ball from an omelette knew the All Blacks hierarchy would omit some spectacularly good wings in finalising their squad for next month's World Cup on home soil, but when the deed was done – when Graham Henry and the rest of the New Zealand coaching staff finally revealed their hand a few hours before deadline – it was still hard to believe there was a team on earth capable of ignoring players as sensational as Hosea Gear and Sitiveni Sivivatu. Their demise made Matt Giteau's rejection by the neighbouring Australians seem humdrum.

Chris Ashton, the most talked-about wing in England, will be more than happy to see the back of Gear, against whom he experienced a seriously uncomfortable half-hour or so at Twickenham last autumn. Yet Henry, utterly ruthless when it comes to selection, had questioned the Wellington player's application in the weeks before that tour and while he was made to eat at least some of his words during the course of it, a series of lukewarm performances just lately resurrected the coach's suspicions.

Sivivatu, the fastest slow-motion runner in international rugby, has had his injury problems, but he had been pushing hard for a World Cup place. In the event, the likes of Zac Guildford and Cory Jane – not to mention the exhilarating back-three strike runner Israel Dagg – beat him to the punch. "The team has been selected on current form," Henry remarked, by way of explanation.

There have been heavy fallers around the rugby-playing world, including England. Yesterday, the red-rose scrummaging coach Graham Rowntree was asked directly about the decision to drop the Wasps centre Riki Flutey from the 2003 champions' 30-man squad – and as Rowntree suffered the deep-seated pain of rejection before that victorious campaign eight years ago, he was the perfect man to respond.

"I'm probably one of the few guys in the coaching business who can actually talk about this from experience," said the cauliflower-eared prop of yore. "What should a player do when this happens? He should do what I did: go back to his club and pour all his frustration into being the best he can be, into being an asset to his team. The last thing a club needs is someone hanging around the place sulking.

"When you're left out of a World Cup squad, it's hard. Some days are better than others, mind you. In '03, I found life more palatable when Austin Healey (his Leicester clubmate) flew all the way to Australia as cover and flew back home a day later. Somehow, that made everything seem alright."

While the rest of the New Zealand squad was largely as expected – Rowntree was slightly surprised at the omission of the loose-head prop Wyatt Crockett while the late challenge of the Wellington loose forward Victor Vito cost the more familiar Liam Messam a place – no member of the England camp was looking any further than Dublin, where they meet Ireland in the last of three warm-up matches on Saturday.

"This game is definitely not a friendly," said Rowntree, still smarting from the beating his forwards suffered against the same opponents in the same city on Grand Slam day five months ago. "We have not forgotten what they did to us over there and it is fuelling our fire for this weekend. The beauty of playing a match like this so close to a World Cup is that it allows us to travel battle-hardened. We want to come off the back of it with an intense 80 minutes – and a win – under our belts." And if England fail to win? "It will put pressure on us," said Rowntree. "It won't be anything we can't handle, but I won't hide from the fact."

He also argued that the decision to take five props to New Zealand, thereby squeezing numbers elsewhere, was a practical move that should pay dividends. "When you look at the demands of the front-row positions nowadays, there's always going to be someone injured and unable to participate," he said. "With four props, you only need one to be unfit and another to start feeling unwell on the day and you're suddenly in trouble."

Meanwhile, members of the governing body in France have caused a stir ahead of the tournament by indicating that Philippe Saint-André, the former Tricolore captain and a familiar figure in Premiership coaching circles, will take over the reins of the national team from Marc Lièvremont immediately the World Cup is over.

"I learnt all this from reading the press," said Mourad Boudjellal, the owner of the Toulon club, who lured Saint-André away from Sale a couple of seasons back. "It is good news for Philippe and a source of pride for the club, but on the human side it is disappointing because even if he is confrontational sometimes, he is very professional and agreeable company." Boudjellal added that one possible replacement at Stade Felix-Mayol is the great All Black centre Tana Umaga.

Saint-André, who also coached at Gloucester, used his knowledge of the English club scene to bolster the Toulon squad with Premiership talent, including Jonny Wilkinson and Paul Sackey, both of whom played in the last World Cup final.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game