Rugby: Osborne replaces Naholo in AB squad

Patrick Osborne
Patrick Osborne
Highlanders winger Patrick Osborne is back in the All Black frame.

Osborne, one of many key contributors to the Highlanders' stunning march to a Super rugby title, has been called into the All Black squad for the Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney.

It is a bittersweet selection, as he is a replacement for his Highlanders team mate Waisake Naholo, who suffered a serious injury in the test against Argentina a couple of weeks ago.

Osborne may not play in Saturday's test - Charles Piutau and Julian Savea appear the likely wing starters, assuming Savea is back to full health and Highlanders talisman Ben Smith returns to the No15 jersey - but it is a sign he remains in the selectors' thoughts.

''With Waisake out for three months and Cory still struggling with his injuries, we just wanted to make sure that we had someone else who's been in the environment,'' All Black coach Steve Hansen said yesterday.

''If we ended up going to the World Cup and needing some outside players, and those two guys weren't available, then we'd have someone who's been here and feels comfortable. It was a bit of pre planning, really.''

It is the second time Osborne has got close to an All Black jersey. He trained with the squad in Dunedin last year but did not get to make his debut.

Osborne, who has re signed for the Highlanders for 2016, is also eligible for Fiji.

His elevation to the All Blacks takes the number of Highlanders in the squad to six.

While it might be a stretch to include the sidelined Naholo, that is the biggest Highlanders representation in the All Blacks since the turn of the century, when there were regularly six or seven players - including present assistant coach Tony Brown - in black jerseys.

Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr Barlow has sealed his return from a long injury layoff and replaced Andy Ellis in the All Black squad for the test against the Wallabies.

Second five eighth Ma'a Nonu is unlikely to be risked, but scans on his injured shoulder showed no signs of serious damage.

Prop Wyatt Crockett has been given the week off as family leave.

Additional reporting by NZME.


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