All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen says the selectors wouldn’t let Sam Cane’s lack of playing time count against him when picking the Rugby Championship squad.
The selection of Cane, who hasn’t played for the Chiefs in recent weeks through injury, ahead of in-form Crusaders flanker Matt Todd, was among the main talking points in the All Blacks squad named on Monday.
But Hansen says Cane’s selection is in line with the current ethos.
“We’ve got a philosophy that you can’t lose any ground when you’re injured,” Hansen said.
“You lose the ground on the playing field.”
The return of Cane and outside back Charles Piutau after injuries, along with Dan Carter’s return following his sabbatical, are the only changes to the squad that swept England in the June internationals.
They took the spots of Crusaders Matt Todd, Colin Slade and Ryan Crotty.
“It was a really tough team to select because we’ve got a number of people that are playing well and unfortunately we’ve got to make some tough decisions,” Hansen said.
“Hopefully those guys go on and have a great week with the Crusaders.”
Loose forward Victor Vito and lock Luke Romano were not considered for selection due to injury.
Hansen said Romano was on track to return for the end of year tour to Europe and the United States.
Crusaders prop Joe Moody will join the named squad as a replacement for Tony Woodcock, who has a shoulder problem.
The All Blacks’ first game is against Australia in Sydney on August 16.
The All Blacks who aren’t Crusaders will go into a two-day camp on Wednesday on Auckland’s North Shore, where they will be joined by seven additional players.
Chiefs hooker Nathan Harris is one, and he will also be with the squad during the domestic portion of their season, as part of his ongoing apprenticeship with the national side.
The others to join this week’s camp are his teammates Pauliasi Manu and Liam Squire, Hurricanes Motu Matu’u and Jeremy Thrush, and Highlanders Kane Hames and Shane Christie.
All Blacks squad: Dane Coles, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Owen Franks, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Patrick Tuipulotu, Liam Messam, Steven Luatua, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read, Sam Cane, Aaron Smith, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea, Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Israel Dagg.