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Steve Hansen said the door hasn’t closed completely on the five players he cut from the All Blacks squad.
The wonderful tale about Karl Tu’inukuafe is unlikely to have a happy ending.
Giant loosehead prop Tu’inukuafe was one of five players omitted from the All Blacks squad when it was trimmed to 34 players for the Bledisloe Cup tests against the Wallabies in Perth and Auckland, significantly reducing his chances of making the cut for the World Cup later this year.
Also gone are Asafo Aumua, Shannon Frizell, Dalton Papali’i and Josh Ioane – although the latter will still be invited to watch and learn ahead of Bledisloe I in Perth on August 10.
The rest, including Tu’inukuafe, will return to their provinces.
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Last year Tu’inukuafe provided the rugby world with one of the feel-good stories of the year; he came out from relative obscurity – at one point working as a doorman – to bound into the All Blacks starting team and win 13 test caps.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said it was simply a numbers game when explaining why Tu’inukuafe had been axed.
Loosehead Atu Moli had impressed since bouncing back from a horrific leg injury, and the selectors wanted to reduce the number of props to six for the Bledisloe Cup tests.
Later, when the 31-man squad is confirmed for the global tournament in Japan, just five props will be required. That makes things even harder for Tu’inukuafe, 26.
Hansen could still call on him, but that’s only likely to happen if established looseheads Joe Moody, Ofa Tuungafasi and newcomer Moli get hurt.
“It’s not that he’s (Tu’inukuafe) done anything wrong,” Hansen said. “It’s just that we have said we want mobile ball playing props that can also do their core roles, and we have been (watching) Atu Moli for quite some time.
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