All Blacks name Rugby Championship squad

Beauden Barrett of the New Zealand All Blacks

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen and his selectors have named their squad for the upcoming Rugby Championship which starts in three weeks time on 20 August.

World Cup champions the All Blacks start the Rugby Championship in Sydney when they face the Wallabies at ANZ Stadium.

All Blacks Coach Hansen said he and his fellow selectors were very happy with the squad and combinations they had come up with.

“The form of the players in Super Rugby has been outstanding and, whilst there is not a lot of change from the June Interntionals squad, it was still a challenging team to select. It was more a case of who do we leave out, rather than who do we pick.

“We’re confident that we’ve picked the right players for the Championship, with some proven combinations and some Test experience being balanced out by the need to continue to grow the newer players in our environment.”

Hansen said the number one goal for the All Blacks, clearly, was to win the Rugby Championship but there were also secondary goals supporting that.

“One is to re-establish our team, from a leadership and playing point of view. The second goal is to grow the understanding and confidence of our newer players, both on and off the track; and thirdly, we want to play a standard of rugby that we can all be proud of and excited by,” he said.

“The quality of the opposition we’ll face during the Rugby Championship will require a growth in our physicality, intensity and the standard of our preparation. How well we do that will be reflected in our results. It’s going to be a very competitive Championship, which we’re all really looking forward to.

“By the end of the tournament, we’d expect to have a greater understanding of where the 32 individual players are at, and their ability to cope and perform at Test level.”

The makeup of the squad, which will again be captained by number eight Kieran Read, sees 18 forwards selected (three hookers, five props, four locks and six loose forwards) and 14 backs (three halfbacks, three first five-eighths, four midfielders and four outside backs) and has a total of 968 Test caps experience.

The squad is made up of five Blues players, six Chiefs, five Hurricanes, nine Crusaders and seven Highlanders while 12 of New Zealand’s provinces are represented, with eight Canterbury players, six from Auckland, four from Wellington, two each from Southland, Manawatu, Hawke’s Bay, Taranaki and Bay of Plenty, and one player each from Counties Manukau, Waikato, Tasman and Otago.

The All Blacks squad will assemble on Thursday this week for a two-day camp on Auckland’s North Shore minus the five Hurricanes who are preparing for this weekend’s Super Rugby Final. Five additional players will also attend the camp: Damian McKenzie, Seta Tamanivalu and their fellow Chiefs back Anton Lienert-Brown as well as Blues loose forward Steven Luatua, Blues outside back Melani Nanai and Crusaders loose forward Matt Todd.

Following this week’s camp, the All Blacks will re-assemble in Auckland next Thursday 11 August to prepare for the opening Test of the Rugby Championship, the Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia in Sydney on Saturday 20 August. The squad will play training matches against Counties Manukau and Northland in the “Game of Three Halves” event in Pukekohe on Friday 12 August before heading to Sydney on Sunday 14 August.

The All Black selectors of Hansen, Ian Foster and Grant Fox did not consider Hurricanes outside back Nehe Milner-Skudder and Chiefs midfielder Charlie Ngatai due to injury.

All Black squad
(with province, Super Rugby team and Test caps in brackets)

Forwards:

Hookers
Dane Coles (Wellington / Hurricanes, 39)
Codie Taylor (Canterbury / Crusaders, 5)
Nathan Harris (Bay of Plenty / Chiefs, 4)

Props
Wyatt Crockett (Canterbury / Crusaders, 48)
Charlie Faumuina (Auckland / Blues, 36)
Owen Franks (Canterbury / Crusaders, 80)
Joe Moody (Canterbury / Crusaders, 14)
Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Auckland / Blues, 1)

Locks
Brodie Retallick (Hawke’s Bay / Chiefs, 50)
Luke Romano (Canterbury / Crusaders, 24)
Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland / Blues, 9)
Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury / Crusaders, 75)

Loose Forwards
Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty / Chiefs, 34)
Elliot Dixon (Southland / Highlanders, 1)
Jerome Kaino (Auckland / Blues, 69)
Kieran Read, captain (Canterbury / Crusaders, 87)
Ardie Savea (Wellington / Hurricanes, 2)
Liam Squire (Tasman / Highlanders, 1)

Backs:

Halfbacks
Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Waikato / Chiefs, 21)
TJ Perenara (Wellington / Hurricanes, 19)
Aaron Smith (Manawatu / Highlanders, 50)

First five-eighths
Beauden Barrett (Taranaki / Hurricanes, 39)
Aaron Cruden (Manawatu / Chiefs, 39)
Lima Sopoaga (Southland / Highlanders, 2)

Midfielders
Ryan Crotty (Canterbury / Crusaders, 18)
Malakai Fekitoa (Auckland / Highlanders, 15)
George Moala (Auckland / Blues, 2)
Sonny Bill Williams (Counties Manukau / Chiefs, 33)

Outside backs
Israel Dagg (Hawke’s Bay / Crusaders, 51)
Waisake Naholo (Taranaki / Highlanders, 6)
Julian Savea (Wellington/ Hurricanes, 43)
Ben Smith (Otago / Highlanders, 51)

The Rugby Championship – All Blacks Tests

1. vs. AUSTRALIA. Saturday 20 August, 8.05PM, ANZ Stadium, SYDNEY
2. vs. AUSTRALIA. Saturday 27 August, 7.35PM, Westpac Stadium, WELLINGTON
3. vs. ARGENTINA. Saturday 10 September, 7.35PM, FMG Stadium Waikato, HAMILTON
4. vs. SOUTH AFRICA. Saturday 17 September, 7.35PM, AMI Stadium, CHRISTCHURCH
5. vs. ARGENTINA. Saturday 1 October, 7.10PM, Estadio Jose Amalfitani, BUENOS AIRES
6. vs. SOUTH AFRICA. Saturday 8 October, 5.05PM, Growthpoint Kings Park, DURBAN

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