Four new All Blacks
Four new All BlacksSHARE
There are four new All Blacks in New Zealand's squad for their year-end tour to Japan and Europe.
Crusaders forwards Joe Moody, Dominic Bird and Luke Whitelock along with Blues wing Frank Halai will all go on their first international tour, although all have spent time within the All Blacks environment this year.
The squad also features the return of uncapped Wellington scrumhalf TJ Perenara, who was named in the Rugby Championship squad but had to withdraw after suffering a stress fracture.
His Wellington teammate Cory Jane is also in the squad after his late withdrawal from the Test team to play Australia on the weekend.
Canterbury lock Luke Romano, who is close to full recovery from his adductor tendon injury, has also been selected. Canterbury midfielder Ryan Crotty also returns to the All Blacks after making his whirlwind Test debut against Australia in August after being called late into the side as injury cover.
One player was unavailable for selection due to injury: Canterbury loose forward Matt Todd (chest).
The All Blacks squad will be led by 120-Test All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, who will be making his tenth tour to Europe, and Daniel Carter and Kieran Read are vice-Captains.
The positional split for the squad sees 20 forwards selected (three hookers, six props, five locks and six loose forwards) and 16 backs (three halfbacks, four flyhalves, three midfielders and six outside backs) and the squad has a combined total of 1,116 Test caps experience.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said: "The selectors would like to congratulate those players picked in the All Blacks for the first time. It is always a special moment for any rugby player in New Zealand and we know they have all worked hard to get here so it's a proud moment for them and their families."
Hansen said the All Blacks players and management were looking forward to the upcoming tour and each of the Test matches would bring their own unique challenges.
"The aim of the tour is to further develop our game structures, our skills sets and our individual players. We will be looking to use the tour to take ourselves beyond where we are at the moment," Hansen said.
The All Blacks selectors have also announced that an "apprentice" player will accompany the All Blacks on tour – 20-year-old Wellington loose forward Ardie Savea, the younger brother of All Black Julian Savea.
"We are continuing the scheme we started with the younger hookers who came into camp earlier this year, and, like them, the aim of the initiative is to give him exposure to all aspects of the All Blacks environment," said Hansen.
The All Blacks squad assembles in Auckland next Friday for a two-day camp after the All Blacks to The Nation visit to smaller towns.
The first part of the Tour will see 27 players head to Tokyo on Monday 28 October to prepare for the first Test against Japan on November 2, while nine players will head to Paris later in the week to start early preparations for the second Test against France. The group heading to France will be named following the All Blacks camp.
New Zealand squad: Dane Coles, Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Tony Woodcock, Dominic Bird, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Jeremy Thrush, Samuel Whitelock, Sam Cane, Steven Luatua, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Luke Whitelock, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Daniel Carter, Aaron Cruden, Tom Taylor, Ryan Crotty, Ma'a Nonu, Francis Saili, Israel Dagg, Frank Halai, Cory Jane, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea, Ben Smith.