It’s not exactly a copy-cat idea of Rassie Erasmus’ plan to field to different teams for the first two tests in the Rugby Championship later in the month, but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has intimated that he will field vastly different teams for the first two tests.
Hansen said there were many positives in being able to name a larger squad for the first two matches in the Rugby Championship against Argentina (July 20) and South Africa (July 27).
“First and foremost, it allows us to pick a very strong squad for what will be a challenging first Test against Argentina in Buenos Aires, while at the same time giving most of the Crusaders players in the All Blacks a rest from what has been a very tough Super Rugby play-off campaign.”
With players of the quality of Sam Whitelock, Dane Coles, Kieran Reid, Matt Todd, Brad Weber, Richie Mo’unga, Jack Goodhue and Sevu Reece among the 11 players from crusaders, a vastly different team can be selected for the second test a week later for the test against the Springboks in Wellington.
Hansen has included four new All Blacks in the 39-man squad: Chiefs and Waikato loose forward Luke Jacobson, Highlanders and Otago flyhalf Josh Ioane and Crusaders and Canterbury back Braydon Ennor and Crusaders and Waikato outside back Sevu Reece.
“Whilst recapturing the World Cup and the Bledisloe Cup are two of the end goals for the year, we have to deal with the here and now, which is getting ready to face two quality oppositions in Argentina and South Africa,” said Hansen at the announcement.
“For the new players, it allows us to meet them for the first time, introduce them to our environment and grow their understanding of their game and our game at international level.
“The challenge and the aim of the first two matches are not only to play winning rugby but attractive, exciting rugby. To do this, we’ll have to quickly reconnect the players from the various Super Rugby clubs back into the All Blacks’ ways. We will need to master our game by improving our execution. To do this, our skillsets and decision making will be our key focus.”
The All Blacks squad is made up of 23 forwards (four hookers, seven props, three locks, one utility forward and eight loose forwards) and 16 backs (three halfbacks, three first five-eighths, four midfielders, two utility backs and four outside backs).
The squad is made up of six Blues players, eight Chiefs, eight Hurricanes, 11 Crusaders and six Highlanders while 13 of New Zealand’s Mitre 10 Cup provinces are represented, with eight Canterbury players, five from Wellington, four from Auckland, three each from Counties Manukau, Waikato Taranaki, Manawatu and Otago, two from Hawke’s Bay and Tasman while there is one player from Northland, North Harbour and Bay of Plenty.
The All Blacks squad (minus the Crusaders players) will assemble in Auckland on Wednesday for a pre-season camp, and again for four days next week, before flying to Argentina on Friday 12 July where they face the Pumas on July 20.
New Zealand squad
Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Liam Coltman, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Atu Moli, Angus Ta’avao, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Samuel Whitelock, Jackson Hemopo, Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Shannon Frizell, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papalii, Kieran Read (captain), Ardie Savea, Matt Todd.
Thomas Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Josh Ioane, Richie Mo’unga, Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Braydon Ennor, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece, Ben Smith.