New Zealand coach Graham Henry had one eye on the future when he named the two teams for the All Blacks trial next month.
With the New Zealand Maori team having first call on players for their clash with the British & Irish Lions and the first-choice players from the Crusaders side omitted because of their involvement in the Super 12 final against the New South Wales Waratahs this weekend, several players are out.
The Probables and Possibles teams are missing Daniel Carter, Chris Jack, Richie McCaw, Justin Marshall, Aaron Mauger, Greg Feek, Carl Hayman, Jono Gibbes and Marty Holah, who will be involved when the All Blacks take on the Lions in three tests during June and July.
Henry insisted despite the absence of several leading contenders the trial still held an important place in an on-going selection process.
"The trial gives more of our leading players the chance to press for a place. We have an All Blacks team to pick and also the Junior All Blacks. We face a demanding test schedule this year and we’re likely to need more than just 22 players. This is a good time for players to put up their hands."
The midfield pairings in both teams make for interesting reading with Blues back Mils Muliaina, usually a fullback, paired with skipper Tana Umaga in the centre for the Probables and Hurricanes duo Ma’a Nonu, who has been in devastating form on the wing, and Conrad Smith picked for the Possibles.
"We’ve got to pick 26 players for the first major campaign and we wanted to make sure we have players who can play in more than one position who can cover every eventuality," Henry said.
"We’d like to see Mils have a crack at centre outside Tana and he’s played at centre before.
"Ma’a we would see primarily as a second-five [inside centre] or centre rather than a wing but he also has the ability to play on the wing. Ma’a also has the ability to be an impact player who could come off the bench.
"Seeing Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith against Tana Umaga and Mils Muliaina, that’s an interesting thing for us."
Henry also explained that hooker Keven Mealamu, Rodney So’oialo and Jerry Collins had been left on the Probables and Possibles benches respectively because of the amount of game time they had seen in the Super 12 and the need to allow them to freshen up ahead of the Lions series.
A number of Crusaders not in the franchise’s starting line-up were also included, such as Andrew Mehrtens, Casey Laulala, Scott Hamilton, Tone Kopelani and Campbell Johnstone.
"These are players who have displayed good form and deserve a place in the trial. Although the Crusaders are involved in the Super 12 final, these guys should be reasonably fresh given their playing time over the course of the season."
The All Blacks trial match takes place on June 3 with the Probables coached by Henry, Hansen and Smith and the Possibles coached by Junior All Blacks’ coaches Colin Cooper and Ian Foster.
The Junior All Blacks play Queensland and two matches against Australia A while the Lions series is on.
The following players were not considered due to injury: Tasesa Lavea, Hoani MacDonald, Anton Oliver, Niva Ta’auso, Neemia Tialata and Anthony Tuitavake.
The All Blacks squad for the Lions series and the Junior All Blacks squad will be named on June 12.
The teams are:
Probables: Sosene Anesi; Doug Howlett, Mils Muliaina, Tana Umaga (c), Sitiveni Sivivatu; Nick Evans, Byron Kelleher; Tony Woodcock, Derren Witcombe, Campbell Johnstone, James Ryan, Ali Williams, Sione Lauaki, Craig Newby, Steven Bates.
Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Clarke Dermody, Bradley Mika, Rodney So’oialo, Jimmy Cowan, Andrew Mehrtens, Seilala Mapusua.
Possibles: Ben Atiga; Scott Hamilton, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Brent Ward; Stephen Donald, Steve Devine; Saimone Taumoepeau, Andrew Hore (c), John Afoa, Ross Kennedy, Kevin O’Neill, Chris Masoe, Josh Blackie, Nick Williams.
Reserves: Tone Kopelani, Carl Hoeft, Tom Donnelly, Jerry Collins, Jamie Nutbrown, Jimmy Gopperth, Casey Laulala.