All Blacks selector Grant Fox indicated that Steven Luatua would be considered for selection against the British & Irish Lions, despite his departure to the Aviva Premiership to join Bristol.
Despite not name-checking Luatua, injuries to New Zealand captain Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino — combined with Luatua’s superb form for the Blues — sees a need for Steve Hansen’s side to keep a closer eye on him.
“We have never penalised guys for choices to head away overseas at the end of a season,” Grant told Radio Sport Breakfast. “Our job is to pick the best team that we think can take on our next opposition and that is the way we have always done it. That will not change at all.
“When it comes down to the nitty gritty, and what do we need now, to get us through. If it happens to be that a player who is heading overseas is someone we need now, then he will get selected.”
That “need” is greater in the loose forward poisition with Read and Kaino in a race against time to make Hansen’s side. Grant stated that New Zealand had been dealt injury blows in the past and overcome them and would do so again.
“We have eight weeks until the first test,” Grant said. “Kieran should be playing in six. It might be a week longer for JK [Jerome Kaino]. He has had surgery and hopefully that will clean up well.
“They are seasoned campaigners. They have been on the Test scene for a long time, so they know what it takes at that level and we are likely to get more injuries before we pick a group. You just role up your sleeves and get on with it.”