New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has included scrum-half TJ Perenara in his 28-man squad for the Rugby Championship.
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has included Hurricanes scrum-half TJ Perenara in his 28-man squad for the upcoming Rugby Championship.
With only 28 men able to be selected, versatility was taken into account when deciding on a group, with Perenara the only new squad member.
The squad has also been bolstered by three wider training group players who will assemble with the squad but return to their ITM Cup teams on the Wednesday of each Test week. Those players are Hurricanes and Wellington lock Jeremy Thrush, Blues and North Harbour midfield back Francis Saili and his Blues teammate, Counties Manukau winger Frank Halai.
Meanwhile, Crusaders and Canterbury prop Joe Moody has also been brought in as injury cover for Wyatt Crockett who will miss the start of the Rugby Championship with a knee injury.
The squad also sees the expected return of 116-Test All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw, who recently returned to rugby after an extended break from the game, and Blues and Auckland tighthead prop and 2012 All Black Charlie Faumuina, who has recovered from the calf injury which ruled him out of most of Super Rugby and the Series against the French in June.
Players from this year's June Series squad who have missed out on selection are prop Ben Afeaki, loose forwards Victor Vito and Matt Todd and half-back Piri Weepu.
“Firstly, we would like to congratulate TJ on his selection in the All Blacks. He has been impressive over the last couple of years and we feel the timing is right to now bring him into the squad,” All Blacks head coach Hansen said.
“On the flipside, it's always difficult and disappointing for players when they miss out on selection, particularly for players like Piri and Victor who have been involved in the team for a number of years. But we have made it clear what we expect from them and the door is certainly not closed if they can deliver on those expectations,” he added.
Another feature of the squad announcement is the unavailability of outside back Rene Ranger who has withdrawn himself from selection for family reasons.
“We fully understand and support him in this decision and wish him and his family all the best for the rest of the year here in New Zealand, and for their next adventure in France,” Hansen said.
Outside back Cory Jane and wider training group player, lock Dominic Bird, who are injured were not considered for selection.
The 28-man squad is made up of 16 forwards (three hookers, five props, three locks and five loose forwards) and 12 backs (three scrum-halves, three fly-halves, two centres and four outside backs) with a combined total of 991 Test caps.
Hansen said now the squad had been finalised, the coaches and management team were looking forward to getting into camp in Wellington later this week to prepare for the opening Test of the Championship, the first Bledisloe Cup clash of the year against Australia in Sydney on Saturday 17 August.
“As always, that opening Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney is going to be a huge match,” he said.
“Whilst we were happy with what we achieved in the Steinlager Series in June, we will now be looking to build a greater understanding and greater execution of the detail within our game structure – and there is no better place to test yourself than in this competition. South Africa, Australia and Argentina will be even better than they were last year and we will have to be as well.”
New Zealand squad
Forwards: Dane Coles (Wellington Hurricanes), Andrew Hore (Otago Highlanders), Keven Mealamu (Auckland Blues), Wyatt Crockett (Canterbury Crusaders), Charlie Faumuina (Blues), Ben Franks (Hurricanes), Owen Franks (Crusaders), Tony Woodcock (Highlanders), Brodie Retallick (Waikato Chiefs), Luke Romano (Crusaders), Samuel Whitelock (Crusaders), Sam Cane (Chiefs), Steven Luatua (Blues), Richie McCaw (captain) (Crusaders), Liam Messam (Chiefs), Kieran Read (Crusaders)
Backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Chiefs), TJ Perenara (Hurricanes), Aaron Smith (Highlanders), Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes), Daniel Carter (Crusaders), Aaron Cruden (Chiefs), Ma'a Nonu (Highlanders), Conrad Smith (Hurricanes), Israel Dagg (Crusaders), Charles Piutau (Blues), Julian Savea (Hurricanes), Ben Smith (Highlanders).