Host of All Blacks released to provinces

All Blacks inside centre Ryan Crotty and hooker Codie Taylor have been cleared to play for Canterbury in New Zealand’s provincial championship this weekend before they return to the national side on Sunday.

The players suffered head knocks in the All Blacks’ Rugby Championship opener against Australia on August 20.

They missed the second game in Wellington last Saturday, though All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said they probably could have played if required but team management chose to err on the side of caution.

Crotty and Taylor’s Canterbury side play Northland on Saturday.

Fellow national squad member Luke Romano is also available for the match before all three re-join the All Blacks in Hamilton on Sunday to prepare for the Rugby Championship clash against Argentina on September 10.

The trio were among 12 players cleared by the All Blacks to be available for their provinces this weekend as there are no Rugby Championship matches.

Uncapped hooker Liam Coltman, who was brought in as injury cover for the Wellington Test but not named in the team, is available for two provincial games for Otago this week against Northland on Wednesday and Bay of Plenty on Sunday.

Flyhalf Lima Sopoaga, lock Patrick Tuipulotu, props Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Charlie Faumuina, winger Rieko Ioane, centre Seta Tamanivalu, hooker James Parsons and utility back Damian McKenzie have also been released for provincial matches.

Tamanivalu and McKenzie, who are in the extended national squad as injury cover, and Coltman will rejoin the All Blacks to prepare for the Argentina match, while Parsons and Ioane will remain with their provincial teams.

New Zealand opened their Rugby Championship campaign with a 42-8 win over Australia in Sydney and followed up with a 29-9 victory over the Wallabies in Wellington.

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