Jerome Kaino looks set to be recalled to the All Blacks after he missed the first four rounds of the Rugby Championship due to a “personal issue”.
The loose forward, who has twice won the World Cup, played in all three Tests against the British & Irish Lions and then returned to New Zealand shortly before the Rugby Championship opener against Australia in Sydney.
At the time, New Zealand Rugby said that an Australian media report about the player’s private life was the reason for his return. But now the 34-year-old has been included in the 28-man tour squad that will play against Argentina in Buenos Aires at the end of the month.
Also in the squad are flanker Matt Todd and lock Patrick Tuipulotu. However, the lock pairing of Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock are being rested as are forwards Liam Squire and Sam Cane.
Steve Hansen has also decided to rest Beauden Barrett and Ryan Crotty, members of the back line, as the team needs to manage the players’ workloads at the back end of the campaign.
Speaking on Monday Hansen said, “We struggled at times last year, this is the hardest time of the year for us, so we are just trying to think outside the box and think of ways to keep the players fresh.”
He went on to say that it is an opportunity to build player depth and experience. But he conceded that there is a lot of pressure heading to Argentina “because they are a good side and we’ll need to play well to perform there, but we’re confident that the group we are taking there will be able to do the job.”
Over the weekend, New Zealand defeated South Africa 57-0 to maintain their unbeaten record in the championship.