All Blacks to stick with June series blueprint

by staff

The All Blacks look set to take the same selection and playing blueprint from the Ireland series into the inaugural Rugby Championship which kicks off this month.

A 28-man squad will be unveiled on Sunday, comprising players in Wellington for a two-day camp, plus others from the Chiefs involved in the Super Rugby final against the Sharks in Hamilton on Saturday.

Assistant coach Ian Foster hinted there would be few changes from the squad named for the June series against Ireland although at least two players from that 30-man squad would need to be culled.

"We're reasonably sorted. We go through vigorous debate and in the last couple of weeks we've still been watching," Foster told NZ Newswire after the first day of the camp.

"We just hope there's not too many injuries on Saturday night. The plan won't be changing too much."

Five props were named for the Ireland series. One of them could well make way while the other positional cull could come at lock where four were named in June, including Ali Williams and Luke Romano, who are both currently injured.

However, Foster said Romano was likely to be fit for the championship opener against Australia in Auckland on August 18.

Captain Richie McCaw will replace one of the loose forwards while injured outside centre Conrad Smith won't be named initially.

Smith's absence wouldn't result in a dramatic reshuffle.

Midfield specialists Ma'a Nonu and Tamati Ellison will be considered at centre outside Sonny Bill Williams but it's unlikely either of the two classy first five-eighths - Dan Carter and Aaron Cruden - will be options for a shift wider in the backline.

"Clearly we started some work in June about how we want to play and Ma'a, while he didn't play, has been used to it. Tamati's been used to it."

Foster said the camp was important for players who had been without rugby in recent weeks while fitness levels were also being tested.

"The players nowadays are used to going from one campaign to another. It's never easy, thus these camps are an important process."