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SBW still in All Blacks frame?

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James Mortimer     26 Jul 2012     Getty Images

Incumbent centre Conrad Smith joined Richard Kahui in the All Blacks centres' casualty ward, with the Hurricanes captain ruled out for six weeks with a detached retina.

Smith is expected to miss the All Blacks first two matches of The Investec Rugby Championship.

Williams departure to Japanese club Panasonic, coupled with the absences of Smith and Kahui, means that there is effectively only one senior centre available in Ma'a Nonu.

Tamati Ellison was called into the All Blacks Steinlager Series squad, and some impressive performances for the Highlanders this season could see him put into the selection frame.

There is also the possibility that some rough diamonds, like Robbie Fruean or Rene Ranger, could be considered.

However there is no player who will give the All Blacks the same tactical and defensive clout that the World Champions had with Smith or Kahui on the field.

NZRU CEO Steve Tew said that New Zealand test selection policies mean't that Williams was technically eligible for selection, as he has featured throughout Super Rugby.

Typically when a player signs outside of Kiwi borders, they shut the door on their All Blacks aspirations.

"He's (Williams) eligible under our selection policy because he's been playing in the competition prior to the team being selected," Tew said.

"I guess the conversation will be whether he has time to play in the competition before he goes to Japan."

Tew also indicated it would be a topic of conversation for the All Blacks coaches.