Rugby: Tales of heartbreak among All Blacks omissions

For every newcomer celebrating their first All Blacks selection, there's always someone licking their wounds after being overlooked.

Just ask Crusaders flanker Matt Todd, one of the unluckiest to miss out on the national squad to take on France next month - again.

One of New Zealand's most consistent performers at all levels of rugby, Todd has been squeezed out of a roster that features seven loose forwards, but only two specialist openside flankers - Sam Cane and Ardie Savea.

Todd, who has appeared in black 13 times since 2013, seems to have fallen victim to the selectors' preference for blindside and No.8 cover, with Kieran Read out and Liam Squire on limited preparation. 

all blacks forwards
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To cover those limitations and to develop depth, coach Steve Hansen and his panel have introduced rookies Shannon Frizell and Jordan Taufua.

Also lost in the shuffle is talented Blues forward Akira Ioane, who was named as injury cover.

"Someone like Matt Todd is a little unlucky, because historically, we've only taken two sevens at this time of year," said Hansen.

"Because we're at home, we felt like we'd continue with that process, and try grow the number of other players that can play six and eight for us.

"Both Jordan and Shannon are what we'd call assertive players who have got plenty of energy and plenty of intention with that energy. They have got a skillset we like.

"Are they the finished product? We don't know, but we won't know for such time until we work with them and we won't know, but we're happy to work with them."

Another notable to miss out is 31-cap lock Luke Romano, who has also suffered through the decision to pick just three specialist second-rowers, with loose forward Vaea Fifita as cover. 

Hansen lamented the decisions facing his selectors at this time of year.

"Most of them are tough, because we have some talented people and we're always leaving someone out who you want to have in," he said.

"A guy like Luke Romano, because of the make-up of the group, we've only taken three locks and he has been really solid for us. To ring him and tell him he's not in is difficult, but I'm sure he will get an opportunity this year."

With 14 tries in 10 Super Rugby outings for the Hurricanes this season, winger Ben Lam was another knocking loudly on the selection door, only to go unheeded. Hansen admitted he went close though.

all blacks backs
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"Obviously really close," he confirmed. "Ben Lam is having an outstanding season, but people around the country have told us 'you must pick so-and-so' and I go 'well, who do you want us to leave out?'.

"There's always a deathly silence, because we don't want to leave anybody out. Unfortunately, that's our job - we have to make decisions.

"We've done that, and we've gone with [Waisake Naholo] and Rieko [Ioane], who's not a bad player. We've got a couple of blokes there who are our big wingers, Ben Smith can play on the wing pretty handily, and then we looked and thought 'do we want another big guy or someone who can bring us something different?'

"Nehe [Milner-Skudder] does that."

Others missing included veterans flanker Jerome Kaino and first-five Lima Sopo'aga, who are both destined for overseas contracts at the end of the Super Rugby season.

Prop Wyatt Crockett has announced his retirement, but was still considered a recall option, given the number of front-rowers injured this season.

"To retire from international rugby takes a lot of consideration and thought," said Hansen. "Crocky has obviously gone through that process himself and with his family, and then come to us and talked to us about that decision.

"I don't think it's right to go back. I think, to be bold, we need to be strong and look to the future, and trust the people that are coming through."


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