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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Steve Hansen has cut 108-test veteran prop Owen Franks and gambled on the age and fitness of other players in naming a 31-man All Blacks squad which will attempt to win the Rugby World Cup for the third consecutive time.
While the squad announced Wednesday has an average age of 28 — equivalent to the squads that won the Webb Ellis Trophy in 2011 and 2015 — Hansen’s first-choice lineup, led by 33-year-old captain Kieran Read, is considerably older.
Hansen’s main gamble with injury is the selection of lock Brodie Retallick, who has been sidelined since the Rugby Championship with a severe shoulder injury. His gambles on age include the selections of fullback Ben Smith at 33 and center Sonny Bill Williams, who will play his third World Cup at 34.
Hansen described Franks as “one of the great All Blacks” but the selectors couldn’t find room for him in the squad.
“He certainly has shown true character,” Hansen said. “Unfortunately … we believe the game requires us to have big, mobile No. 1s and No. 3s and in this
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