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All Blacks squad named for 2016 Steinlager Series

The All Blacks selectors Steve Hansen, Ian Foster and Grant Fox have named a mixture of experience and new talent for the three Steinlager Series Tests against Wales.

The squad is as follows: (with province and Test caps. New All Blacks are in bold.)

Forwards

Hookers

Dane Coles (Wellington, 36 Tests)
Codie Taylor (Canterbury, four Tests)
Nathan Harris (Bay of Plenty, two Tests)

Props
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)

Locks
Brodie Retallick (Hawke’s Bay, 47 Tests)
Luke Romano (Canterbury, 22 Tests)
Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland, seven Tests)
Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury, 73 Tests)

Loose Forwards
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)


Backs

Halfbacks
Tawera Kerr–Barlow (Waikato, 20 Tests)
Aaron Smith (Manawatu, 47 Tests)

First five–eighths
Beauden Barrett (Taranaki, 36 Tests)
Aaron Cruden (Manawatu, 37 Tests)
Lima Sopoaga (Southland, one Test)

Midfielders
Ryan Crotty (Canterbury, 15 Tests)
Malakai Fekitoa (Auckland, 13 Tests)
Charlie Ngatai (Taranaki, one Test)
Seta Tamanivalu (Taranaki, new cap)

Outside backs
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)


As well as the 32–man squad, two players will assemble as injury replacements: Highlanders lock Tom Franklin for Whitelock and Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara for Kerr-Barlow.

A key feature is the selection of six uncapped players, seven when including Tom Franklin.

The other new All Blacks are standout young Blues prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi; the outstanding Highlanders loose forward duo of Elliot Dixon and Liam Squire; talented Hurricanes loose forward Ardie Savea; and exciting young Chiefs teammates Damian McKenzie and Seta Tamanivalu.

Not considered for selection due to injury was Nehe Milner-Skudder.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “The selectors would like to congratulate all players selected, especially the new All Blacks and those returning to the squad – they and their families can be very proud. We’d also like to congratulate Kieran and Ben on their respective appointments as Captain and Vice-Captain.”

Hansen also said the team was really energised by the challenges they would face this season.

“We know that there’s been a lot of interest around the selection of this first All Blacks squad of 2016, after what was a great season for us last year, and with a large group of experienced players moving on.

“Many people, including our opponents, may be thinking we’re vulnerable and are rebuilding. However, we don’t have that mindset. We, as selectors, are very confident that we have both the talent and the experience to continue enhancing the legacy of the All Blacks,” he said.

“It’s often said that when the tall trees that cast the largest shadows are cut down, the remaining smaller trees grow more rapidly. We believe we’ll see players stand tall and take their game to a higher standard this season.



“This group of players, I can assure you, is very excited about the opportunities that lay ahead for them. They know it’s their time, their moment, and they can’t wait to make their mark in the jersey,” Hansen added.

“We’re well aware that what we did yesterday will not be enough for today, so we’ll be looking to raise the bar to an even higher level from where we’ve been. This is our challenge – one, I must say, we’re really looking forward to getting stuck into.”

The makeup of the squad sees 18 forwards selected (three hookers, five props, four locks and six loose forwards) and 14 backs (two halfbacks, three first five–eighths, four midfielders and five outside backs) with an average age of 25.

The squad is made up of four Blues players, eight Chiefs, four Hurricanes, nine Crusaders and seven Highlanders while 11 of New Zealand’s provinces are represented with eight Canterbury players, five from Auckland, four from Taranaki, three from Wellington, two each from Southland, Manawatu, Hawke’s Bay, Bay of Plenty and Waikato, and one player from Tasman and Otago.

The All Blacks squad assembled in Auckland today to prepare for the first Test against Wales at Eden Park on Saturday 11 June. The second Test is at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, on Saturday 18 June, with the third and final Test at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, on Saturday 25 June. The Wellington Test will be an historic occasion: it will be the first time the All Blacks have played Wales in the capital city.

The All Blacks and Wales have a rivalry dating back to 1905 and have played each other 30 times, with 27 wins to New Zealand and three wins to the Welsh. The two teams last met in November 2014 in Cardiff, with the All Blacks winning 34-16.