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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen drops star centre from World Cup squad

Ngani Laumape - All Blacks

Ngani Laumape has been left out of the official All Blacks squad to travel to Japan for the Rugby World Cup.

Head coach Steve Hansen has included Sonny Bill Williams in his 31-man squad despite the centre enduring a club season unsettled by injuries.

In contrast, Laumape was in prolific form for the Hurricanes during the Super Rugby campaign.

The 26-year-old came into his prime in scoring 13 tries, trailing only Crusaders wing Sevu Reece in the try-scoring charts.

Williams is one of three players aiming to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time, with Kieran Read set to captain New Zealand and Sam Whitelock leading from the second row.

It would have been four if Hansen had included Owen Franks, but the Northampton Saints-bound tighthead is a surprise omission.

A veteran of 108 Tests, the All Blacks head coach has shown his preference for youthful mobility to create havoc in the loose.

Props Atu Moli and Angus Ta’avao handed plane tickets, as three hookers are named in Dane Coles, Codie Taylor and Liam Coltman.

A winner in 2011 and 2015, Hansen said the decision to leave Franks out was one that weighed heavy on his conscience during the selection process.

“He is one of the great All Blacks,” said Hansen.

“His professionalism both on and off the field has been magnificent over the years, but unfortunately we believe the game requires us to have big mobile number ones and number threes and in this case, we just think the other guys that we’ve named are more so than he.

“Therefore we had to make a tough decision.”


New Zealand’s 31-man squad for the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Forwards: Dane Coles, Liam Coltman, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Atu Moli, Angus Ta’avao, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, Luke Jacobson, Kieran Read (capt), Ardie Savea, Matt Todd.

Backs: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece, Ben Smith.

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