Each team is allowed a 31-player squad for the tournament, which needs to be advised to the organisers by 31 August.
There’s always someone who RSVPs straight away because they’re so thrilled to have been invited, and this year it’s Argentina and Samoa who have already submitted their team sheets. The All Blacks squad will be announced on 30 August at … Parliament. Call me old-fashioned, but it doesn’t have the same authentic rugby feel as underneath the old stand at Athletic Park.
RWC rules say that you’re allowed to replace a squad member for injury or compassionate reasons, but the new player is not allowed to play in a match for 48 hours.
Some people reckon that rule could have an interesting dynamic on squad selection. It might mean, for example, that you would take just two specialist halfbacks or two specialist hookers, on the basis that you can ring in a necessary.
I don’t buy it.
For a start, you want people on the ground who have been part of the whole training programme. Having a new guy join late is going to disrupt everyone’s focus: it might be necessary, but it’s not Plan A.
Second, so what? If you go thin in one position, what’s the advantage you’re creating in another position? It feels more like you’ve got a worry about, say, the back three, which you’re trying to paper over by having one extra player. But if that one extra player was the real answer, they should already be in the squad.
Pick the squad that you believe is going to do the business. Have a wider training group at home who are playing ITM Cup and being watched closely. Any of them (including Ned) can be in London in 24 hours if needed, having flown tucked up in business class, which still gives them 24 hours to recover if they actually need to play.
If I get the call, I promise I’ll stay off the turps between LAX and Heathrow so that I arrive in ready-to-go condition.
An earlier version of this story said that the stand down period for an incoming player was 72 hours rather than the correct 48 hours. This was a result of Fat Fingers Friday being a complete idiot. We’re very sorry.