Above: Xi Jinping collects his jersey ahead of his All Blacks debut
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has sprung a surprise by picking Chinese President Xi Jinping to start in this weekend’s test against Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
Hansen picked Xi to play at number 8 after the first choice for that position, Kieran Read, was unexpectedly dropped from the team.
Xi has been visiting New Zealand, but flew out from Auckland last night after receiving the call-up. He is expected to arrive in Cardiff on the morning of the game.
Steve Hansen said the decision to drop Read had been made at the eleventh hour, after concerns about the player’s commitment to the socialist revolution.
“Reado’s played a lot of rugby this year, and he’s tired, both physically and mentally. We decided to pull him from the squad after a team meeting yesterday, where we talked a lot about performance and what we expect from our players.
”Kieran has himself admitted that his general play has suffered. He’s not hitting the rucks and mauls fast enough, and he’s not focused enough on the need to seize the means of production from the capitalist classes.”
Hansen said he was confident Read would get over his current slump in revolutionary fervour.
“He knows what he needs to do. He talked a lot about it during his thirteen-hour self-criticism session on Wednesday.”
Hansen said Read had now been sent away from the team for a period of further self-reflection.
“Reado just needs some time out from the rugby environment, so we’ve sent him away to clear his head. We’ll surround him with some good people, who will show him where he has gone wrong.
“He won’t have time to think about rugby where he’s going.”
Hansen said he expected Xi to slot into the team without too much disruption. He was not concerned about Xi’s lack of match fitness.
“He’ll be fine,” said Hansen. “Xi may be old and unfit, and I don’t think he even knows the laws of rugby. But he will bring a renewed sense of purpose and energy to the ongoing struggle against the forces of reaction.”