Steve Hansen has claimed Brad Shields would have been an All Black this year had he not switched allegiance to England.
All Blacks coach Hansen picked three uncapped players — including back rows Jordan Taufua and Shannon Frizell — in his 33-man squad for the Test series against France in June.
Shields will be in South Africa with England during the Test window having agreed to join Wasps next season.
The Rugby Football Union’s attempts to secure the Hurricanes captain’s release before the end of the Super Rugby season caused friction with its counterpart in New Zealand, and Hansen has now weighed in.
“It is obviously one of those positions… he probably would have made this team this year,” Hansen told Newstalk ZB, when asked if Shields was on the radar.
“I wish him all the best. He wants to play Test rugby, he obviously didn’t see a future here.
“Straight away Jerome Kaino retired, Reado [Kieran Read] is injured, Liam Squire hasn’t played a lot of rugby this year. The six/eight role has become a focus for us this year.
“That’s the thing about the All Blacks — you’ve got to stay resilient because you are always up against someone else as good if not a little better. If you are not prepared to wait for the opportunity and keep working at it you are not going to get it
“That’s my point to the people who have missed out today — we used 54 players last year and we won’t just use 33 this year.
“Someone will get an opportunity and if they mentally stay in the game, stay in the fight through being resilient with how they prepare and how they play on game day, they will get that opportunity.”
Taufua and Frizell are joined in the All Blacks squad by uncapped scrum-half Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi ahead of the three-Test series against France.