The All Blacks have taken the unprecedented step of naming a player based in Japan among an enlarged 51-man squad for autumn test matches against Australia, Japan, England, Ireland, and Italy.
Flanker Matt Todd, who is playing for the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan’s top domestic competition, has been picked for the European section of New Zealand’s tour in the absence of Sam Cane, who is convalescing after fracturing his neck. Todd is set to return to New Zealand next year in time to play for Crusaders in Super Rugby, but would normally not be considered for All Blacks selection while based overseas.
The All Blacks have a steadfast policy of not picking overseas-based players on the basis that doing so would lead to an exodus of top players, who could accept lucrative club contracts in Europe and Japan while still playing tests. All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said the 14-test flanker had been granted an exemption in recognition of his long service to New Zealand rugby and the fact he is returning to New Zealand in 2019.
A squad of 32 players will travel to Yokohama to play Australia in a Bledisloe Cup test on October 27. A group of 22 or 23 of those will then head on to Europe for the tests against England, Ireland, and Italy.
The remaining nine or 10 players will be joined by a secondary group of 19 players, including seven uncapped players, for the test against Japan in Tokyo on November 3.
The 32-man squad is effectively Hansen’s main group which played mid-year tests against France and in this season’s Rugby Championship. The notable feature of that selection is the inclusion of 21-year-old uncapped flanker Dalton Papalii and the return of former first-choice hooker Dane Coles, who played the latest of his 54 tests in November last year. Coles has been sidelined for much of the past two seasons with issues related to concussion and with knee and calf injuries.