Messam earns All Blacks recall
John Afoa, Corey Flynn, Liam Messam and Ma'a Nonu have been recalled to the New Zealand squad for the Tri-Nations series with Australia and South Africa.
Messam's inclusion is probably the biggest surprise but his form for the New Zealand Maori during their recent Centenary series has seen him oust Adam Thomson from the loose forward mix. Prop Neemia Tialata has made way for Afoa who the All Blacks coaches believe has a long-term future covering all three front row positions.
Flynn's return, which is subject to him passing medical and fitness tests when the players go into camp later this week, means there is no room for Aled de Malmanche, although the Chiefs hooker will return if Flynn is ruled out.
Zac Guildford is the other unlucky player from the June series squad to miss out after coaches Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith opted for two specialist wings in Cory Jane and Joe Rokocoko with Richard Kahui and Rene Ranger - who was only called in as cover for the last Test against Wales but ended up making his debut at Waikato Stadium - seen as other wing options.
Nonu has recovered from the knee injury which kept him out of the June series wins over Ireland and Wales and was always going to return if he was fit. Probably the most unlucky player was New Zealand Maori wing Hosea Gear. Despite a strong series against the Barbarians, Ireland and England - where he scored a hat-trick - the winger has failed to push his way back into the 28-man squad.
"He is unlucky," admitted Henry when asked what Gear needed to do to get back in his squad. "He played very well against England and I feel for him because he is an exceptional footballer."
Like Ranger, Sam Whitelock, the Crusaders lock who came in as cover for the June series when Tom Donnelly was under an injury cloud, becomes an official member of the squad for the upcoming Tests against the Wallabies and Springboks.
Players not considered for selection due to injury include Mike Delany (shoulder), Stephen Donald (shoulder), Jason Eaton (knee), Andrew Hore (shoulder), Sitiveni Sivivatu (shoulder), Isaia Toeava (hip) and Ali Williams (Achilles).
Backs:Daniel Carter (Crusaders), Jimmy Cowan (Highlanders), Aaron Cruden (Hurricanes), Israel Dagg (Highlanders), Cory Jane (Hurricanes), Richard Kahui (Chiefs), Mils Muliaina (Chiefs), Ma'a Nonu (Hurricanes), Rene Ranger (Blues), Joe Rokocoko (Blues), Conrad Smith (Hurricanes), Benson Stanley (Blues), Piri Weepu (Hurricanes).
Forwards:John Afoa (Blues), Anthony Boric (Blues), Tom Donnelly (Highlanders), Corey Flynn (Crusaders), Ben Franks (Crusaders), Owen Franks (Crusaders), Jerome Kaino (Blues), Richie McCaw (Capt, Crusaders), Keven Mealamu (Blues), Liam Messam (Chief), Kieran Read (Crusaders), Brad Thorn (Crusaders), Victor Vito (Hurricanes), Sam Whitelock (Crusaders), Tony Woodcock (Blues).