Scrumhalf Piri Weepu was recalled and captain Richie McCaw a surprise selection when New Zealand coach Steve Hansen announced his Rugby Championship squad for the trip to Argentina and South Africa yesterday.
Weepu was dropped from the initial squad for the tournament, which the world champions lead with four wins out of four, but earned a recall after T.J. Perenara fractured his leg.
Flanker McCaw was expected to miss the rest of the Rugby Championship with a knee injury, but will now travel in the hope of proving his fitness for the Test against the Springboks on Oct. 5.
Flyhalf Dan Carter misses out because of a shoulder injury he sustained in the 29-15 win over South Africa last week and was, as expected, replaced in the squad by Tom Taylor, who made his debut against Australia in Wellington last month.
Taylor joins Beauden Barrett and Aaron Cruden as the No. 10s in the squad, with the latter likely to start against Argentina at La Plata next Saturday after recovering from a knee injury of his own.
Weepu’s omission from the initial squad had some writing off his Test career, particularly after Hansen said he was struggling to keep up with the pace of the game he wanted the All Blacks to play.
The 30-year-old has come through similar troughs in his 71-Test career before, though, and Hansen said he had seen improvement in the halfback’s game in the national provincial championship.
“T.J. has suffered a stress fracture in his lower-left leg and is expected to be out of rugby for at least six weeks and, therefore, will miss the rest of the Rugby Championship,” Hansen said in a statement. “We have selected Piri as a replacement for two reasons: one, given the environments we are going into, it would be unfair to bring in a novice halfback; and secondly, we have also seen advances in his game in the areas we asked him to improve in.”
If McCaw, who injured his knee when prop Charlie Faumuina landed on his left leg in last month’s 28-13 victory over Argentina, fails in his bid to play his 120th Test, Matt Todd, who made his debut against France in June, will join the squad in South Africa.