New Zealand have confirmed a 38-man squad for two upcoming camps, with ten uncapped players being mixed with All Black veterans.
New Zealand have named a 38-man squad for two upcoming training camps, with ten uncapped players being mixed with All Black veterans.
The group, which will undergo the camps before being whittled down on June 2, contained no major surprises. It includes all of New Zealand's core playing group barring captain Richie McCaw, who is taking a sabbatical from the game.
“There's some young players who are really putting their hand up,” said boss Steve Hansen.
“It's about getting that mixture of experience and youthful enthusiasm and making the decisions at the right time to introduce new blood.”
While some veterans such as lock Ali Williams, hooker Andrew Hore and centre Ma'a Nonu have struggled for form this year, Hansen was confident they could still perform for the All Blacks.
He said he was in no hurry to drop players who had proved themselves at international level and when the world champions set about rebuilding their team it would be a gradual process.
“You can't dump everybody at once because you need experience to win Test matches… there's a lot of guys have still got a lot of rugby left in them,” he said.
“They'll come into our environment, they'll play Test matches and, if they can play to the level we expect, they'll stay there. If they can't, then we have to make decisions.”
Sam Cane was the only specialist openside flanker named in the absence of McCaw.
But Hansen said Luke Braid, Tanerau Latimer and Matt Todd were all capable of providing cover at number seven and the selectors did not believe including them in the training group would provide any new insights.
“We know these guys, so we thought we'd just keep monitoring them on the field,” he said.
Hansen said Highlanders centre Tamati Ellison was omitted from the training group after confirming last week that he will play in Japan at the end of the Super Rugby season, but he could still be called up if needed.
Rene Ranger was included despite rumours he is considering an offer to play in France, with Hansen saying he would be disappointed if the outside back was offered a chance to add to his three Test caps and still departed.
The All Blacks open the Test series against France in Auckland on June 8.
All Blacks training squad:
Backs: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, Hosea Gear, Julian Savea, Rene Ranger, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Francis Saili, Tom Taylor, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, Piri Weepu, Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow.
Forwards: Kieran Read, Victor Vito, Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Steven Luatua, Brad Shields, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Ali Williams, Dominic Bird, Owen Franks, Ben Afeaki, Tony Woodcock, Ben Franks, Wyatt Crockett, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu, Dane Coles.