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Read to lead All Blacks

Sun, 02 Jun 2013 07:31
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Getting the balance right between experience and new blood
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Kieran Read was named as the captain of a 32-man All Blacks squad including six new faces to face France in the upcoming series.

Head coach Steve Hansen said form was not the sole criteria for selection as he retained a few seasoned All Blacks who have been below par in Super Rugby this year.

Crusaders No.8 Read takes over the leadership of the team in the absence of World Cup-winning skipper Richie McCaw who is on a six-month break and will miss the French series.

The first of three Tests against France is in Auckland next Saturday and will be the first clash between the two sides since the All Blacks defeated Les Bleus 8-7 on the same ground in the 2011 World Cup Final.

The fresh talent tapped for higher honours include two backs - midfielder Francis Saili and fullback Charles Piutau both from the Blues.

The uncapped forwards are Chiefs prop Ben Afeaki, Blues flank Steven Luatua, Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush and Crusaders flank Matt Todd.

Although Todd is an openside flank, Hansen said he was included as an injury replacement for senior lock Sam Whitelock who has a broken finger and is not expected to play before the third Test.

The squad also features the return of Blues back Rene Ranger, who played three Tests in 2010 and has indicated he is moving to play rugby in France at the end of the year.

"In picking the side, the selectors have looked at, firstly, a combination of Super Rugby form and past All Blacks form and secondly, getting the balance right between experience and new blood," Hansen said.

"We have introduced 15 new players to our environment in the last 12 months thus accomplishing one of our goals of having a mixture of experience and enthusiastic new faces."

The squad includes incumbent All Blacks Aaron Smith and Ma'a Nonu who were both dropped to the bench by the Highlanders for Saturday's 38-28 win over the Blues while prop Tony Woodcock could not even make the matchday 22.

Of the 14 backs named in the squad, Hansen said versatility was the key with a number of players able to fill multiple positions.

All Blacks squad: Dane Coles, Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu, Ben Afeaki, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Tony Woodcock, Brodie Retallick, Jeremy Thrush, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, Steven Luatua, Liam Messam, Kieran Read (captain), Victor Vito, Matt Todd, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Piri Weepu, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Ma'a Nonu, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, Conrad Smith, Israel Dagg, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea, Ben Smith.

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