5 Jul 2009

Eaton and Gear rejoin All Blacks

7:50 am on 5 July 2009

Richie McCaw has been passed fit to lead the injury-plagued All Blacks in this season's Tri-Nations series.

Vice-captain Rodney So'oialo and wing Sitiveni Sivivatu are also recalled from injury to a 30-man squad for the annual series with Australia and South Africa.

The All Blacks have been decimated by injuries but the return of McCaw, So'oialo and Sivavatu is welcome news after an unflattering start to the season in warm-up tests against France and Italy.

At least nine frontline players, including first-five Daniel Carter and lock Ali Williams, were not available because of injuries.

And utility back Isaia Toeava is likely to miss the first three tests of the Tri-Nations with a stress fracture in his left foot while first-five Stephen Donaldis recovering from a hamstring strain.

Coach Graham Henry kept faith with the bulk of players who started against France and Italy althoughwing Lelia Masaga has been dropped for Hosea Gear, who was promoted along with lock Jason Eaton from the Junior All Blacks squad which won the Pacific Nations Cup.

The All Blacks will assemble in Wellington for a two-day training camp next week to start preparing for their opening match against Australia in Auckland on July 18.

The squad is, backs: Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane, Joe Rokocoko, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Hosea Gear, Isaia Toeava, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Luke McAlister, Stephen Donald, Piri Weepu, Jimmy Cowan, Brendon Leonard. Forwards: Rodney So'oialo, Richie McCaw (captain), Tanerau Latimer, Kieran Read, Jerome Kaino, Jason Eaton, Isaac Ross, Bryn Evans, Brad Thorn, John Afoa, Neemia Tialata, Owen Franks, Tony Woodcock, Wyatt Crockett, Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu, Aled de Malmanche.