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Sonny Bill to sit out Bledisloe opener as New Zealand trim squad to 34

Shannon Frizell and Karl Tu’inukuafe are among the men to miss out as the window to reach the World Cup narrows.

All Blacks' Sonny Bill Williams
All Blacks' Sonny Bill Williams
Image: Anthony Au-Yeung

SONNY BILL WILLIAMS will miss New Zealand’s Rugby Championship clash against Australia as the All Blacks named a 34-man squad for the two Bledisloe Cup Tests.

Williams is set to play two games with Counties Manukau, including their Mitre 10 Cup opener, while missing the meeting with the Wallabies in Perth on 10 August.

However, the 33-year-old will re-join the All Blacks squad for their clash against Australia in Auckland a week later.

Nepo Laulala will also play for Counties but he will join up with New Zealand for the first game in Perth.

Head coach Steve Hansen’s selection edges him closer to the 31-man group he will bring to Japan and the casualties from this cut include blindside Shannon Frizell and prop Karl Tu’inukuafe – a latecomer to pro rugby after doctors had warned him his weight was leading him towards a heart attack.

With Brodie Retallick marked injured, Scott Barrett is included in the squad after a hand injury.

“Bledisloe Cup Tests are always massive Tests,” Hansen said..

“We know that the Wallabies will be confident after their win over Argentina and desperate to win this first match, so we’re looking forward to getting to Perth and getting into our Test preparation.

“The Bledisloe Cup is the second most important trophy for us, after the Rugby World Cup, and we’re really looking forward to the next two Tests coming up.

“Two weeks together will give us solid preparation towards growing our game understanding and getting our execution honed, so that’s exciting.

“The last time the All Blacks played in Perth was way back in 1992 [against a Western Australia side] but this will be a historic first Test for us in the city, so we’re also looking forward to catching up with our fans over there.”

The All Blacks have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003, while they are second to South Africa in the Rugby Championship ahead of the final matches of the tournament.

New Zealand squad for Tests v Australia: Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett, Scott Barrett, George Bridge, Sam Cane, Dane Coles, Liam Coltman, Braydon Ennor, Vaea Fifita, Owen Franks, Jack Goodhue, Jackson Hemopo, Rieko Ioane, Luke Jacobson, Nepo Laulala, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Joe Moody, Atu Moli, Richie Mo’unga, TJ Perenara, Kieran Read, Sevu Reece, Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Angus Ta’avao, Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Brad Weber, Samuel Whitelock, Sonny Bill Williams.

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