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27 May 2008 09:09
All Black coach Graham Henry fired a parting shot at retiring flanker Jerry Collins, saying the tough loose forward was in poor form and would not have made the first New Zealand squad of the season.
Henry and co-coaches Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith named a 25-man squad on Tuesday to begin preparations for mid-season Tests, excluding players from the Canterbury Crusaders who will play the New South Wales Waratahs in Saturday’s Super 14 final.
A squad for home Tests against Ireland and England in June will be named in Christchurch on Sunday.
Collins announced his retirement from top-level rugby in New Zealand on Monday, saying he had reached a decision last week that it was time to make a “clean and dignified” exit from the game.
It became clear on Tuesday that Henry may already have warned Collins he would not make the All Blacks on recent form and that may have hastened the flanker’s decision to retire aged 27.
The selection judgement of Henry, Smith and Hansen, who were reappointed in December after presiding over New Zealand’s disastrous World Cup campaign, is likely to be further questioned after Henry’s admission he would not have chosen Collins.
Collins’s successor in the All Blacks number six jersey will likely be Canterbury flanker Kieran Read, a relative novice who has shown out this season as a flashy ball-runner but moderate defender and line-out forward.
Henry said Tuesday that Collins’s decision to retire was a good one.
“He wouldn’t have got in the All Blacks in this first selection anyway,” he said. “His form had wavered and he’d be the first to agree with that.
“I talked to him two weeks ago and said to him that it [blindside] was a very competitive position and that other guys were playing better than he was at the time.”
Collins grew up in the blue-collar city of Porirua, north of Wellington, overcoming a humble upbringing to become one of the world’s most respected players.
“I suppose I appealed more to the working-class man, the people who worked in the meatworks and the factories,” Collins said.
New Zealand training squad: John Afoa, Anthony Boric, Daniel Braid, Jimmy Cowan, Stephen Donald, Tom Donnelly, Andrew Hore, Richard Kahui, Jerome Kaino, Sione Lauaki, Brendon Leonard, Keven Mealamu, Mils Muliaina, Ma’a Nonu, Kevin O’Neill, John Schwalger, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Conrad Smith, Rodney So’oialo, Adam Thomson, Neemia Tialata, Anthony Tuitavake, Paul Williams, Tony Woodcock, Rudi Wulf.—Sapa-AP
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