Youngsters performing well in Super Rugby have been rewarded with a spot in the All Blacks ahead of the three-test series against Wales in June. With the All Blacks squad announced, the focus now moves from the press conference to the training field and soon, the venues that will host Wales in New Zealand (NZ)
Kieran Read becomes the newest All Black captain, taking over from arguably the greatest player that World Rugby has ever seen, Richie McCaw. With 84 test matches under his belt, Read is not only the most experienced All Black in Hansen’s squad, but the number eight is also a ‘double Rugby World Cup winner’ himself, as well as the World Rugby Player of the Year 2013. Alongside him, 48 test fullback and a World Cup vwinner in 2015, Ben Smith is given the Vice Captain duties.
A total of six uncapped players were named this morning, and All Black coach Steve Hansen says that he is confident that the mixture of youth and experience within the squad can carry on a famous All Black legacy. “This group of players is very excited about the opportunities that lay ahead of them. They know it’s their time, their moment, and they can’t wait to make their mark on the All Black jersey”, Hansen said.
Youth and Experience in First All Blacks Squad Of 2016
Three debutants can be found in the loose forward pack, with notable selections being the Highlanders teammates of Elliot Dixon and Liam Squire, two standouts so far this year in Super Rugby. Beside them; after turning his back on the Rio Olympics in Sevens, Ardie Savea finally earns acall-up for the full All Blacks squad after two blockbusting years at both Super Rugby and at Provincial levels.
Savea joins his older brother, 41-test Julian Savea in the squad, and will work well with the experienced Sam Cane in providing plenty of options for the All Blacks, before the test side is announced.
Damian McKenzie was named in the outside backs after setting ‘Super Rugby alight in 2016’ with the Chiefs, including being the competitions leading point scorer for several weeks. McKenzie provides a goal kicking option, as well as his speed and ability to start a counter attack from anywhere on the field.
Also named from the Chiefs franchise is a slightly unexpected selection in Seta Tamanivalu, the only debutant in the All Blacks midfield.
Despite being left out of last years Rugby World Cup, fullback Israel Dagg has been selected, no doubt due to his impressive form since returning from injury earlier this year. A 49 test player who featured in the victorious 2011 Rugby World Cup side, the Crusader players return to this squad brings a wealth of experience, to compliment the fresh talent of McKenzie.
Up front, talented Blues prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi joins an experienced trio, including World Cup winners Wyatt Crockett, Owen Franks, and Joe Moody. There are no new caps in the hooking trio, but a slight surprise in the selection of Nathan Harris, who only returned to the Chiefs starting lineup a week ago but has appeared for the All Blacks against the United States in 2014.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow has jumped TJ Perenara as second choice halfback, but Perenara will be a part of the wider-training squad as injury cover.
All Blacks Squad Announced
The full All Black squad for the Steinlager Test Series against Wales is as follows:
Dane Coles (Wellington, 36 Tests)
Codie Taylor (Canterbury, four Tests)
Nathan Harris (Bay of Plenty, two Tests)
Wyatt Crockett (Canterbury, 45 Tests)
Charlie Faumuina (Auckland, 33 Tests)
Owen Franks (Canterbury, 78 Tests)
Joe Moody (Canterbury, 11 Tests)
Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Auckland, new cap)
Brodie Retallick (Hawke’s Bay, 47 Tests)
Luke Romano (Canterbury, 22 Tests)
Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland, seven Tests)
Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury, 73 Tests)
Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty, 31 Tests)
Elliot Dixon (Southland, new cap)
Jerome Kaino (Auckland, 67 Tests)
Kieran Read, captain (Canterbury, 84 Tests)
Ardie Savea (Wellington, new cap)
Liam Squire (Tasman, new cap)
Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Waikato, 20 Tests)
Aaron Smith (Manawatu, 47 Tests)
Beauden Barrett (Taranaki, 36 Tests)
Aaron Cruden (Manawatu, 37 Tests)
Lima Sopoaga (Southland, one Test)
Ryan Crotty (Canterbury, 15 Tests)
Malakai Fekitoa (Auckland, 13 Tests)
Charlie Ngatai (Taranaki, one Test)
Seta Tamanivalu (Taranaki, new cap)
Israel Dagg (Hawke’s Bay, 49 Tests)
Damian McKenzie (Waikato, new cap)
Waisake Naholo (Taranaki, three Tests)
Julian Savea (Wellington, 41 Tests)
Ben Smith (Otago, 48 Tests)
With the 2016 All Blacks Squad announced, fans will now begin to ramp up their excitement for the three test series that begins on June 11. Last Word On Sports are proud to have resident All Blacks reporter Mike Pullman fully accredited by New Zealand Rugby. Mike will present more features, match reports and player interviews over the next month.
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