An All Blacks wider training camp is being held in Christchurch over the next two days ahead of the Rugby Championship, without Crusaders players.
The Crusaders are busy preparing for this weekend’s Super Rugby final against the Lions in Christchurch.
The Hurricanes’ Dane Coles will make his long-awaited return from injury as the most high-profile inclusion in the camp, having ruptured his ACL back in November.
Sonny Bill Williams has been included, but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen confirmed that his star centre won’t be available for the first two Bledisloes as he battles back from a shoulder injury – the latest complaint in a rotten run of injuries of late for the 33-year-old.
Hansen was asked whether he thought Mo’unga should be a starter for the All Blacks in the upcoming Rugby Championship.
According to the Associated Press, the coach’s response was: “He’s playing behind a Rolls Royce pack… but, yes, he is (putting pressure on Barrett and McKenzie). He’s playing the way we’re expecting him to play behind a pack like that.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how he does in a big game. It’s not a Test match, but it’s probably the closest you’ll get to one without playing one. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he drives the team around the park.”
All Blacks training camp:
Hookers: Dane Coles, Liam Coltman and Nathan Harris
Props: Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Karl Tu’inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi
Locks: Brodie Retallick and Patrick Tuipulotu
Loose forwards: Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Shannon Frizell, Jackson Hemopo, Akira Ioane, Ardie Savea, Liam Squire and Luke Whitelock
Scrum-halves: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
Fly-halves: Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie
Centres: Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown and Sonny Bill Williams
Outside backs: Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo and Ben Smith