All Blacks' World Cup squad: Winners and losers

The All Blacks have unveiled the 31-man squad that will attempt to win a third straight Rugby World Cup.

Coach Steve Hansen was expected to announce a list of names with few surprises, but he and his fellow All Blacks selectors did have a couple of shocks up their sleeve on Wednesday.

Read on as we break down the winners and losers from New Zealand's World Cup squad announcement.


Ryan Crotty

The Crusaders veteran was probably always going to be selected but he must have had just a few doubts after he was overlooked four years ago. Crotty hasn't played since the Super Rugby semifinal win over the Hurricanes, a match in which he suffered a broken hand. His class and experience in the wider channels have seemingly cancelled out any concerns over his match fitness and preparedness for the rigours of a World Cup, particularly given the inexperience of the likes of Sevu Reece and George Bridge. Crotty is in a fight to win a place in the midfield for the All Blacks' big games, though, with Anton Lienert-Brown and Sonny Bill Williams performing strongly against the Wallabies in Auckland, and Jack Goodhue having enjoyed a sparkling Super Rugby season.

Luke Jacobson

Virtually unheard of at the start of the year, Jacobson has capped a meteoric rise with selection for the World Cup at just 22 years of age. The Chiefs back-rower was a standout for the Waikato side throughout Super Rugby, but he really began to catch the eye with a string of excellent performances through the middle of the season - his effort in a thrilling 31-all draw with the Highlanders in particular. Jacobson has been given the nod ahead of Vaea Fifita and Shannon Frizell, after Liam Squire and Hansen came to the conclusion the Highlanders back-rower would only be called upon for injury cover after he had earlier ruled himself out of the Rugby Championship. Jacobson can however cover both No. 6 and 8 and should get game time against the likes of Namibia and Canada.

Atu Moli

Easily the biggest shock of all is Moli's selection ahead of 108-cap veteran Owen Franks. The Chiefs front-rower only made his Test debut a few weeks ago, against the Pumas in Argentina, coming on in the 60th minute. He did however play his part in what was a dominant All Blacks scrum to close out that Test, before seeing no further action in the Rugby Championship. Moli clearly has youth on his side, though, and it looks as though Hansen and co. are set on having mobile props for an up-tempo game plan that now looks like it will include the Read-Cane-Savea back-row axis as well. Moli starts the tournament as the fifth front-row option but should still see game time against either Canada or Namibia.


Owen Franks

The veteran Crusaders prop would have appeared to be a rusted-on selection even just three weeks ago, but all it took was one bad performance against the Wallabies in Bledisloe I for his name to be scrubbed from Hansen's list. But it's also worth noting that at 31 years of age, after 108 Tests, the run might have just slipped from Franks' legs and with New Zealand clearly looking to implement an up-tempo game plan, the Crusaders front-rower can't have been getting through the work the selectors would have liked. Franks' omission does however leave the All Blacks light on experience at prop, with the five players selected boasting just 88 caps between them - 69 of those belonging to Joe Moody and Ofa Tun'ungafasi.

Ngani Laumape

Five into four was never going to fly and unfortunately Laumape was the player to miss out among the midfielders. The Hurricanes centre again enjoyed a stellar Super Rugby season and did himself no harm with limited opportunities in the Rugby Championship, but with Sonny Bill Williams a proven campaigner at Test level, and a veteran of two World Cups, the All Blacks selectors were always going to favour the code-hopper once he proved his fitness. The try Williams scored in Bledisloe II was likely the final nail in Laumape's selection coffin. He will however be the first cab off the rank should any of Williams, Crotty, Goodhue or Lienert-Brown go down and given all but the Chiefs star have battled injury in recent times, Laumape will no doubt be keeping himself in tip-top shape should the call from Japan come.

Vaea Fifita

It has been a difficult couple of years for Fifita, purely because he seems caught between positions. While he can play both lock and No. 6, the Hurricanes forward seemed to have a falling out of sorts with Hansen last year and never really quite got back to the form that saw him score a breathtaking individual try against the Pumas in New Plymouth in 2017. He was given a chance in the Rugby Championship, first as a starter against the Pumas and then off the bench in the 16-all draw with the Springboks, but failed to really grasp either opportunity. He is also a victim of the uncertainty around Brodie Retallick's return, which Hansen is hoping to be around the quarterfinal stage, meaning the All Blacks were forced to take a fourth lock in the form of Patrick Tuipulotu who certainly delivered at Eden Park 10 days ago. Had Retallick been 100 percent fit, Fifita may have got the go-ahead through his versatility but the selectors were otherwise never going to take just Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett as locks for the pool phase.