Time is running out for Cory Jane to prove he is World Cup-ready after he was omitted from the 41-strong squad to prepare for twin Bledisloe Cup Tests.
Coach Steve Hansen will have to rely on the provincial form of the 53-Test Hurricanes wing, whose final weeks of Super Rugby were ruined by a hamstring injury which also kept him sidelined through the first three Tests of 2015.
Jane’s absence has allowed Charles Piutau to press his World Cup claims strongly while Hansen called Patrick Osborne into the squad ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship-deciding Test at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium as injury cover.
Osborne is unlikely to play in Sydney or in Auckland a week later but Hansen seems set to hand a chance in one of those Tests to another uncapped outside back, Nehe Milner-Skudder, after the exciting Hurricane recovered from a rib niggle.
Hansen admits a lack of game time is working against the cause of 32-year-old Jane, who hobbled off again during the New Zealand Barbarians’ win over the Maori All Blacks two weeks ago.
His fitness will be assessed in the All Blacks camp this week but his next game is likely to be for Wellington in the NPC.
Hansen says Jane’s Test pedigree will work in his favour when the selectors assess their 31-man squad to be announced on August 30, but that will only go so far.
“It’s making it harder (to select him),” Hansen said.
“Cory’s problem is he’s just been repeatedly injured this year, and the World Cup is a tournament that you don’t really want to be taking high-risk athletes to because once you lose them they’re gone for the competition.
“He’s got an opportunity because he’s got good runs on the board from the past but we need to see him back out on the track at some stage.”
A season-ending injury to Highlanders excitement machine Waisake Naholo appears to have left one outside back position contestable.
Julian Savea, Ben Smith and Piutau should fill three of the four berths, with Jane, Milner-Skudder and experienced fullback Israel Dagg contesting the other spot.