Threadbare All Blacks selection for Samoa

A makeshift All Blacks team will face Samoa in Apia with 17 players ruled out of contention on Super Rugby duty.

Twelve Hurricanes players and five from the Highlanders will miss the historic Test on July 8, which falls four days after the final in Wellington featuring both teams.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has always said any players involved in the final won’t be considered for the first Test of World Cup year.

That stance leaves him with several headaches, his squad of 41 reduced to 24 contenders and some of them are unavailable with injury.

Hansen is certain to call in additional players and name a starting XV with a distinctly Crusaders feel.

The backline is most threadbare, with a maximum six players available.

One of them is Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg, who hasn’t played since April 11 because of a calf injury, but showed positive signs at a training camp this week in Auckland.

If he starts against Samoa, the wingers are likely to be Blues flyer Charles Piutau and Crusaders playmaker Colin Slade, who has proven versatility.

Ryan Crotty and Sonny Bill Williams are the only available midfielders and Slade’s switch would leave veteran Daniel Carter the only option at No.10.

None of the three selected halfbacks is available, including the injured Tawera Kerr-Barlow.

It will mean a likely start for injury cover Andy Ellis and promotion to the bench for uncapped Chiefs No.9 Brad Weber.

There are more options in the forwards although Hansen has indicated a heavy workload will count against the chances of some players, with Chiefs pair Sam Cane and Liam Messam both likely to be rested.

Hansen has hinted regular skipper Richie McCaw will be on the reserves bench, with Matt Todd to start on the openside flank and a third Crusaders loose forward, Kieran Read, to captain the side.

POSSIBLE STARTING XV: Israel Dagg, Colin Slade, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Charles Piutau, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (capt), Matt Todd, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett.

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