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?
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

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links