Six new caps in All Blacks squad

Date published: June 2 2013

New Zealand have included six uncapped players in their 32-man squad to prepare for the three-Test series against France.

New Zealand have included six uncapped players in their 32-man squad to prepare for the three-Test series against France.

Three Blues, full-back Charles Piutau, centre Francis Saili and flank Steven Luatua are joined by Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush, Chiefs prop Ben Afeaki.

Crusaders loose forward Matt Todd also comes into the squad as an injury replacement for lock Samuel Whitelock who is recovering from a broken finger and is expected to be available for the Third Test. The squad also features the return of Northland and Blues back Rene Ranger, who played three Tests in 2010.

As expected Crusaders number eight Kieran Read will captain the side.

Prop Tony Woodcock, who missed the Highlanders victory over the Blues on Saturday is expected to recover in time to be considered for the first Test in Auckland on Saturday.

“In picking the side, the selectors have looked at, firstly, a combination of Super Rugby form and past All Blacks form; and secondly, getting the balance right between experience and new blood,” said head coach Steve Hansen.

“In doing that, we have looked to take the opportunity to introduce six new players [including Matt Todd], and the selectors would like to congratulate those young men on being selected.

“That means we have introduced 15 new players to our environment in the last 12 months, thus accomplishing one of our goals of having a mixture of experience and enthusiastic new faces.

“It's now about consolidating and narrowing our focus for this three-match Test series against what will be a very good French side. They are a team never to be underestimated.”

Players unavailable for selection due to injury included Charlie Faumuina (calf), Cory Jane (knee) and wider training group member Dominic Bird (shoulder).

The backs-forwards split for the squad sees 18 forwards and 14 backs, with the squad boasting a combined 905 Test caps. Versatility is the key in the backs with a number of players able to play in multiple positions.

The squad is made up of five Highlanders players, eight Crusaders, seven Hurricanes, six Chiefs and six Blues. Provincial representation is led by Canterbury (seven players) with Wellington (six), Auckland (four), North Harbour (three), Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Hawke's Bay and Manawatu (two); and Northland and Otago (one).

Hansen said a number of players were unlucky to miss out either through non-selection or injury, “but I would like to emphasise that we as selectors believe that over time a number of these players will be seen in the black jersey so our message to these young men is to keep striving and be ready for your opportunity when it comes.”

The All Blacks squad assembles in Auckland on Sunday to prepare for the first Test next Saturday at Eden Park. The second Test is at Christchurch's AMI Stadium (Addington) on Saturday 15 June and the third Test at Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, on Saturday 22 June.

The David Gallaher Cup, which the All Blacks and France have been contesting since 2000, will again be on the line.

New Zealand squad:
Props: Ben Afeaki (Chiefs), Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders), Ben Franks (Hurricanes), Owen Franks (Crusaders), Tony Woodcock (Highlanders).

Hookers: Dane Coles (Hurricanes), Andrew Hore (Highlanders), Keven Mealamu (Blues).

Locks: Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), Luke Romano (Crusaders), Jeremy Thrush (Hurricanes), Samuel Whitelock (Crusaders).

Loose forwards: Sam Cane (Chiefs), Steven Luatua (Blues), Liam Messam (Chiefs), Kieran Read (captain, Crusaders), Matt Todd (Injury replacement, Crusaders), Victor Vito (Hurricanes).

Scrum-halves: Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Chiefs), Aaron Smith (Highlanders), Piri Weepu (Blues).

Fly-halves: Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes), Daniel Carter (Crusaders), Aaron Cruden (Chiefs).

Centres: Ma'a Nonu (Highlanders), Rene Ranger (Northland, Blues), Francis Saili (Blues), Conrad Smith (Hurricanes).

Outside backs: Israel Dagg (Crusaders), Charles Piutau (Blues), Julian Savea (Hurricanes), Ben Smith (Highlanders).