All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen has confirmed that members of his squad will be available for the first two warm up matches of the British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand this summer.
All Blacks contracted with either the Crusaders or the Blues will be allowed to play for their club sides before Hansen assembles his Test squad after the Lions third warm up match in Christchurch on June 11.
The news means that the likes of Kieran Read, Owen Franks, Israel Dagg, Sonny Bill Williams, Jerome Kaino, Ryan Crotty, Charlie Faumuina, Codie Taylor and Wyatt Crockett will all be made available to play ensuring that the Lions do not have an easy run into the First Test in Auckland on June 24; not that it was plain sailing for the tourists in the first place.
Hansen confirmed the news on Saturday which will be a massive boost to the Blues, the Crusaders and all of New Zealand rugby.
“That’s all been sorted. The first two Super Rugby games before we assemble they’ll all be available. After that they’ll be with us,” said Hansen (via Stuff.co.nz).
The Christchurch game is already a sell out but Crusaders coach Scott Robertson still welcomed the news and underlined the importance of the Lions visit in the continued regeneration of the city following the Christchurch earthquakes and Port Hills fire.
“It’s hugely significant for our region, the Crusaders and the people of Christchurch after what we’ve been through and not being able to host a test match it’s our equivalent,” Robertson said.
“To have the All Blacks playing on top it’s going to be a pretty special evening. It’s history making.
“They’ve got a bit of time off afterwards to get themselves right for that first test match and it comes in our bye so there’s a lot of things going for us. As a whole group it’s something to look forward to.”
The All Blacks will assemble the day after the Chrischurch game on Jun 11, just under two weeks before the opening test at Eden Park.
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena