The All Blacks might just have dropped some massive squad hints for the upcoming Tests against the Lions, hours ahead of schedule.
A post on allblacks.com has listed a “possible” panel as part of the preview for the British and Irish side’s visit, with the official release due to come on Thursday morning. Granted, the piece is labelled as opinion but the fact that it is featured on the official All Blacks website should add to the sense of intrigue surrounding it.
With hooker Dane Coles reportedly out for the series, the 30-year-old’s name does not appear on this list. Indeed, only two hookers, namely Codie Taylor and Nathan Harris, featured.
Nehe-Milner Skudder is not on the list, but young Blues centre Rieko Ioane, whose brilliant try opened the scoring in the 22-16 victory against the Lions on Wednesday, could well have played his way into contention. Speaking of the Blues, Sonny Bill Williams is on the list along with Ryan Crotty (provided he recovers from his rib injury).
Patrick Tuipulotu, omitted from the Blues squad before said recent victory, is also omitted from this draft panel.
33-man “Possible” All Blacks Squad to Face the Lions
Backs: Ben Smith, Damian McKenzie, Julian Savea, Waisake Naholo, Rieko Ioane, Israel Dagg, Malakai Fekitoa, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty (if fit), Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow
Forwards: Kieran Read, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Jerome Kaino, Elliot Dixon, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Wyatt Crockett., Codie Taylor, Nathan Harris
All will be revealed in a matter of hours when the official list is confirmed by coach Steve Hansen, at which point preparation will be ramped up for the first Test on June 24th.