World Cup player profiles: New Zealand

Date published: September 10 2015

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Ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, we take a look at all of the players set to feature in England. Next up, New Zealand.

Forwards: Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Tony Woodcock, Wyatt Crockett, Dane Coles, Keven Mealamu, Codie Taylor, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Sam Cane, Victor Vito, Jerome Kaino, Liam Messam.

Backs: Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Sonny Bill-Williams, Ben Smith, Julian Savea, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo.


BEN FRANKS

Prop    1.84m    118kg    27.03.1984

Born in Australia, former Crusader Franks was a high-profile arrival at the Hurricanes before the 2013 season. Capable of playing both sides of the scrum, he has been part of the All Blacks set-up since 2008 and was an unused substitute in the 2011 World Cup Final as New Zealand reclaimed the title on home soil for the first time in 24 years. In 2015 he has been a rock for the Hurricanes as they dominated the Super Rugby season. He's a sure thing for New Zealand's matchday 23 in the World Cup due, as mentioned, to his ability to play on either side of the hooker.


OWEN FRANKS

Prop    1.85m    120kg    23.12.1987

The younger brother of Ben, Owen Franks has played over 100 games for the Crusaders since making his debut in 2009. In that same year he was handed his international bow for New Zealand, running out against Fiji in the Pacific Nations Cup and has since established himself as a mainstay in the XV. Solid at the set-piece and physical yet delicate around the field, Franks should hit a century of caps in the coming years.


CHARLIE FAUMUINA

Prop    1.86m    130kg    24.12.1986

The tighthead prop has established himself as one of the premier front row forwards in New Zealand rugby and is now a regular in the All Black matchday squad. Very mobile around the park, his breakout season came in 2012 when he was named Blues Player of the Season.


TONY WOODCOCK

Prop    1.84m    119kg    27.01.1981

A Test centurion like his front-row team-mate Keven Mealamu, Woodcock returned to the Blues in 2014 having spent one season with the Highlanders in 2013. With over a decade of experience in Super Rugby, and the same at Test level, he is the most experienced All Black prop of all time. He scored New Zealand's only try in the 2011 World Cup Final. Woodcock retired from Super Rugby at the end of 2015's season and it's expected the same decision will be made after the World Cup in England to cap what has been an impressive fourteen-year international career.


WYATT CROCKETT

Prop    1.93m    116kg    24.01.1983

Taller than average for a prop, Crockett has been established at loosehead for the Crusaders since making his debut back in 2005. Now a regular for the All Blacks as well, he impressed in 2014 under the new scrum regulations and is close to being a consistent starter in his battle with Tony Woodcock. Few get the better of Crockett at scrum time and it's clear the All Blacks management team like what the prop offers.


DANE COLES

Hooker    1.84m    108kg    10.12.1986

A mobile hooker, Coles has made great strides in the last two years to establish himself as the All Blacks’ first-choice in the position. His highlight in the All Black jersey so far undoubtedly came as he provided the final offload to Ryan Crotty for the try that sealed an unbeaten 2013 for New Zealand.


KEVEN MEALAMU

Hooker    1.81m    109kg     20.03.1979

The most capped hooker of all time, Mealamu has also played more Super Rugby games than any other player. The veteran made his debut for the Blues all the way back in 2000, earning his first All Black cap two years later. He was part of the New Zealand squad that won the World Cup in 2011 and has been managed carefully since so as to give him every chance of playing in 2015's event. Rarely lets the side down.


CODIE TAYLOR

Hooker    1.83m     106kg    31.03.1991

Taylor was first noticed when he represented the Junior All Blacks team that won the 2011 IRB Junior World Championship. He played for Canterbury in 2012 before being signed by the Crusaders in 2013. He made his Super Rugby debut that same year. Taylor's fitness and skills were noticed by All black mentor Steve Hansen as he was included in the team ahead of the 2015 Rugby Championship.


BRODIE RETALLICK

Lock     2.04m    119kg    31.05.1991

The Chiefs' premier lock and one of the best in his position in the world. Retallick has been a regular in the Chiefs second-row since making his Super Rugby debut in 2012 and is known as a hard grafter and great line-out exponent. After representing New Zealand U20 at the Junior World Championship in Italy in 2011 he made his senior All Blacks debut in 2012 and improved by the game, so much so that he won the World Player of the Year award in 2014 after an outstanding 12 months. Only 24 years of age, Retallick arguably still has his best campaigns ahead of him.


SAM WHITELOCK

Lock    2.00m    116kg     12.10.1988

A member of the All Blacks since 2010, Sam Whitelock was part of the team that claimed the 2011 World Cup on home soil. He racked up his 50th Test cap in 2013 at the age of just 25 and has been a vital member of the side with his mobility around the park and ability in the lineout.


 LUKE ROMANO

Lock    1.99m    119kg    16.02.1986

The 29-year old made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2011 and has played for them since. After a brilliant Super Rugby season, Romano was included in the All Black team. The monster lock made his test bow in 2012 and has played 20 tests, 15 of which he started. He's had immense success with the All-Black with an 87.50 winning percentage.


KIERAN READ

Numer eight    1.93m    110kg    26.10.1985

The 2013 World Player of the Year has become the world’s premier number eight. Hugely mobile and with ball handling ability worthy of an international three-quarter, he has become one of the most important players for both the Crusaders and New Zealand. His 2014 season was, however disrupted by a series of concussions.


RICHIE MCCAW

Flanker    1.87m    108kg    31.12.1980

The three-time World Player of the Year and Rugby World Cup-winning captain in 2011 has won every prize there is to win in rugby. The openside flanker has the record for the most Test wins of any player in history and remarkably had played just eight minutes of Super Rugby when he was first called up to the All Blacks in 2001. Set to retire after this World Cup at the age of 34 and will have near to 150 caps to his name and became the most capped player of all time in 2015.


SAM CANE

Flanker    1.86m    103kg     13.01.1992

A specialist as an openside flanker, Cane is the heir apparent to Richie McCaw's All Blacks jersey. He is a talented and very diligent loose forward. Cane defends aggresively and accurately and is a fine link player. Cane made his All Blacks debut in 2012 after representing the victorious New Zealand U20 team at the IRB Junior World Championship in Italy.


 VICTOR VITO

  Loose forward     1.92m    109kg    27.03.1987

Vito is capable of playing across the back row and has been regularly involved in the All Black set-up since his debut in 2010. He was part of the 2011 World Cup-winning squad, and has been one of the stars at the Hurricanes for the last five years.


 Jerome Kaino

Numer eight    1.96m    109kg    06.04.1983

Returned to the Blues in 2014 after a spell playing in Japan, Kaino provides a level of physicality which very few can match in world rugby. One of the keys to New Zealand's 2011 World Cup triumph, he made an immediate return to the All Black side in 2014, first at number eight before moving to his more familiar blindside role. A carrying machine with unrivalled strength, New Zealand need him fit and firing in England.


LIAM MESSAM

 Flanker    1.90m    105kg    25.03.1984

Messam is regarded as one of the leading back-rowers in the world. Part of the Chiefs' leadership group, as a co-captain and been a stalwart with the Hamilton-based franchise since his debut in 2006. Has also represented the Maori All Blacks, New Zealand Sevens – winning gold at the 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games – and made his senior All Blacks debut in 2009.


AARON SMITH

Scrum-half    1.71m    83kg    21.11.1988

Since signing for the Highlanders in 2011 – after being in the Blues' wider training squad the year before – Smith hasn't looked back as his unrivalled slick service and busyness at the breakdown sets him apart from his rivals. His hunger stands out which is why he isn't short of a try and has established himself as regular All Black starter. Regarded as one of the world's premier number nines.


TJ PERENARA

Scrum-half     1.84m    94kg     23.01.1992

Alongside Beauden Barrett, Perenara represents the future for the Hurricanes and possibly the All Blacks. An electric scrum-half, he has already cemented his position as first choice for the franchise, while backing up Aaron Smith for New Zealand. And all that's been achieved despite a broken leg which ruled him out for the second half of 2012. Since returning he has improved week by week and over the last two seasons has been outstanding with ball in hand. An excellent support runner who knows where the try-line is, he would surely start for any other nation.


TAWERA KERR-BARLOW

Scrum-half    1.87m    89kg    15.08.1990

He is amongst a crop of exciting scrum-halves in New Zealand and one of the world champions' leading number nines. Has a strong distribution game and is aggressive and highly competitive. Kerr-Barlow represented New Zealand at the IRB Junior World Championship in Argentina in 2010 and made his senior All Blacks debut in 2012. He recovered from a serious knee injury in 2014 to make the All Blacks' World Cup squad.


DANIEL CARTER

Fly-half    1.78m    94kg    05.03.1982

The most prolific points scorer in the history of international rugby, Carter has every accolade in the game. Regarded by many as the greatest fly-half of all time, he made his international debut back in 2003, and despite injury was a World Cup winner in 2011. He came painfully close to winning the Super Rugby title in 2014 and many believe that had he not been forced to leave the field due to injury, the Crusaders might have beaten the Waratahs. In 2015 he has been as steady as ever at inside centre and fly-half and looks in excellent shape going into this World Cup.


BEAUDEN BARRETT

  Fly-half    1.87m    92kg    27.05.1991

One of the rising stars of New Zealand rugby, Barrett initially burst on to the scene with the Baby Blacks helping them to Junior World Championship glory in 2011. He has since established himself as a quality international fly-half and looks set to battle Aaron Cruden to be Dan Carter’s long-term successor in black after making his New Zealand debut in 2012.


COLIN SLADE

Fly-half     1.83m    90kg    10.10.1987

A real talent who the All Blacks will lose after the Rugby World Cup as he jets off to pastures new at Top 14 side Pau, where he will be joined by Conrad Smith. It says something that New Zealand's management were immensely disappointed with his decision to leave and also that he's been included in their squad in spite of it. He controls a match superbly, kicks well and can play at fly-half, full-back and even at wing.


MA'A NONU
Centre    1.82m    105kg     21.05.1982

Returned to the Hurricanes in 2015 after an unproductive couple of seasons with the Highlanders and Blues. While he has always played very well for the All Blacks, his Super Rugby form regularly disappointed. Not so this season as being alongside Conrad Smith clearly helped his game, with this arguably his best season for a franchise. His excellent form has seen him cement his spot ahead of Sonny Bill Williams at inside centre and he will hope for a second World Cup triumph before he jets off to join a host of international stars at Toulon in the 2015/16 campaign.


 CORNRAD SMITH

Centre    1.86m    95kg     12.10.1981

One of the standout centres in world rugby, Smith is known as 'Snake' by his teammates for his ability to slide through tackles. While neither the biggest nor the quickest midfielder around, he more than makes up for it with an incredible rugby brain and is one of the first names on the teamsheet for both the Hurricanes and the All Blacks.


 MALAKAI FEKITOA

Centre    1.87m    99kg    10.05.1992

The Blues made a massive error when they chose not to pen Fekitoa to a deal and thus the Highlanders pounced. Initially he stood out at the National Sevens in 2011 but 2014 was his real breakout year, debuting for the All Blacks. His line-breaking is outstanding.


SONNY BILL WILLIAMS

Centre     1.94m    108kg    03.08.1985

One of the biggest names in world rugby, Williams initially made his name playing rugby league. A high profile switch of codes saw him move to French side Toulon, before heading to New Zealand and playing a role in their 2011 World Cup success. He returned to league for a short spell but came back in 2014 and did enough to earn a spot with the All Blacks at the World Cup.


BEN SMITH

Full-back    1.86m    93kg    01.06.1986

Made his debut in 2009 and has been a mainstay ever since. In 2013 he played all of the Highlanders' games in the Super Rugby season and then shone for the All Blacks on the right wing. Favours the 15 jersey where he is outstanding in franchise and national colours. The complete full-back, rightly regarded as one of the best in the world.


JULIAN SAVEA

Wing    1.92m     105kg    07.08.1990

Possibly the most dangerous attacking weapon in world rugby, it was a matter of when rather than if Savea would become an All Black. After initially catching in the eye in 2010 with the Baby Blacks, he made a dream debut for New Zealand with a hat-trick against Ireland in 2012 at Eden Park. Scoring tries with ease at an alarming rate.


NEHE MILNER-SKUDDER

Skudder    Wing/Full-back    1.80m    90kg    15.12.1990

What a breakthrough year in Super Rugby it has been for the Palmerston North native, who was given an opportunity at the Hurricanes in 2015 after an injury-disrupted few seasons at Manawatu. The gamble paid off for Chris Boyd as the fleet-footed full-back or right wing has taken the competition by storm and is deserving of his spot in the All Black squad going into the World Cup. Electric with ball in hand, a class player.


Waisake Naholo

Wing    1.86m     102kg    08.05.1991

A debut Super Rugby season to remember for Naholo, who finished the campaign top of the try chart on scores. The Highlanders signed the unwanted wing, who played twice for the Blues in 2013, after a fine NPC season for Taranaki and he didn't let them down, showing searing pace and quality with ball in hand. His form earned him a call-up to the All Blacks squad ahead of the World Cup and he's set to be deadly on the wing, recovering from a fractured leg to make the World Cup squad.

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