AB reward for Coles, Kerr-Barlow
AB reward for Coles, Kerr-BarlowSHARE
All Black coach Steve Hansen on Monday named uncapped scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow and fellow rookie Dane Coles in his 32-man squad for New Zealand's upcoming Northern Hemisphere tour.
Kerr-Barlow, 22, and hooker Coles, 25, were the only new faces in a squad boasting a combined 1,103 Test caps that will face Scotland, Italy, Wales and England in New Zealand's first European tour since last year's World Cup triumph.
Hansen said the pair had been rewarded for their strong form in this year's Super Rugby competition, Kerr-Barlow with the championship-winning Chiefs and Coles with the Hurricanes.
"They are young and exciting players and have shown this year that they look more than capable of stepping up to Test match rugby," he said.
Hansen also kept faith with Blues pair Piri Weepu and Ali Williams, who both struggled with poor form and injuries during the Super Rugby season.
The only selection likely to raise eyebrows was Highlanders forward Adam Thomson, who is yet to commit to a new contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union amid speculation he will announce plans this week to play in Japan.
Players not considered for selection due to injury include Anthony Boric (neck), Colin Slade (leg) and Richard Kahui (shoulder).
The squad is made up of 18 forwards and 14 backs and will again be captained by 113-Test All Black Richie McCaw.
New Zealand go into the tour undefeated in 17 matches, although their hopes of breaking the world record of 17 consecutive Test victories (which they share with South Africa) were scuppered by an 18-18 draw with Australia earlier this month.
Hansen has blooded a clutch of promising youngsters at Test level since taking over after the World Cup and said they were relishing the prospect of a Northern Hemisphere tour.
"Tours to the Northern Hemisphere always bring unique challenges and this tour will be no different," the coach said.
"For many of the newer players in the All Blacks it will be the first time they have experienced Test matches in the United Kingdom and Europe and they are always big occasions," he said.
"Overall, the team has been very happy with what we have achieved so far this year, but nothing has changed – we are always looking to put in performances we are proud of and we are always looking to improve – and that is what we will be wanting to do on this tour."
The All Blacks assemble and fly out from Auckland on Thursday, with the first Test against Scotland in Edinburgh on Sunday 11 November. They then face Italy (November 17), Wales (November 24) and England (December 1).
Backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Smith, Piri Weepu, Beauden Barrett, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden Tamati Ellison, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Israel Dagg, Hosea Gear, Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Julian Savea.
Forwards: Dane Coles, Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Tony Woodcock, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Ali Williams, Sam Cane, Richie McCaw (capt), Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Adam Thomson, Victor Vito.