New Zealand: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck one of six debutants in All Blacks squad

David Skippers

Caleb Muntz ((left) of Fijian Drua tackles Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (right) of the Blues during the Super Rugby Pacific Round 10 match between the Auckland Blues and Fijian Drua at AAMI Park in Melbourne, Saturday, April 23, 2022. (AAP Image/Con Chronis) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY ** STRICTLY EDITORIAL USE ONLY, NO COMMERCIAL USE, NO BOOKS **

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster has named his 36-man squad for their three-Test series against Ireland in July, with Blues inside centre Roger Tuivasa-Sheck one of six newcomers included in the group.

Tuivasa-Sheck, who is in his first year of Super Rugby after making the move from rugby league, is joined by Blues team-mate Stephen Perofeta (utility back), Folau Fakatava (scrum-half) of the Highlanders and Leicester Fainga’anuku (utility back) of the Crusaders as the uncapped backline players in the squad, while Chiefs duo Aidan Ross (prop) and Pita Gus Sowakula (number eight) are the newbies amongst the forwards.

Challenging series

Foster admitted that the All Blacks‘ series against Andy Farrell’s Ireland side, which kicks off at a packed Eden Park on 2 July, would be a massive challenge.

“This will be the biggest home series since the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour for the All Blacks,” he said. “There are massive expectations all round and it will be immensely competitive.”

Foster, who picked the team along with his fellow selectors Grant Fox and John Plumtree, admitted that it was a difficult task squad to choose.

“We want to congratulate the six new caps in what will be a very special day for them and their families who I’m sure will be extremely proud of their achievements,” he added. “We have a new group of exciting players who will be keen to make a difference in the All Black jersey.

“We would also like to congratulate Sam Cane on resuming his role as All Black captain after injuries kept him sidelined for much of last year.

“It’s also great to see Jack Goodhue back after his knee injury in 2020.

“We also know there’s disappointment for those players not selected and we feel for them at this time.

“You can often judge the strength of the All Blacks by the quality of the men who have missed out.”

Foster revealed that there will be a training camp in Tauranga this week although players from the Super Rugby Pacific finalists – the Blues and Crusaders – will not be involved with the full squad assembling first in Auckland and then in Northland from 20-24 June.

Joe Moody, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ethan Blackadder were not in contention for the squad due to injuries while Patrick Tuipulotu and Damian McKenzie were unavailable for selection due to New Zealand Rugby’s return to play criteria.

New Zealand’s 36-man squad

Forwards: Dane Coles (Hurricanes, Wellington), Codie Taylor (Crusaders, Canterbury), Samisoni Taukei’aho (Chiefs, Waikato), Aidan Ross (Chiefs, Bay of Plenty), George Bower (Crusaders, Otago), Nepo Laulala (Blues, Counties Manukau), Ofa Tuungafasi (Blues, Northland), Karl Tu’inukuafe (Blues, North Harbour), Angus Ta’avao (Chiefs, Auckland), Samuel Whitelock (Crusaders, Canterbury), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs, Hawke’s Bay), Scott Barrett (Crusaders, Taranaki), Josh Lord (Chiefs, Taranaki), Tupou Vaa’i (Chiefs, Taranaki), Pita Gus Sowakula (Chiefs, Taranaki), Sam Cane (Chiefs, Bay of Plenty, c), Dalton Papalii (Blues, Counties Manukau), Ardie Savea (Hurricanes, Wellington), Akira Ioane (Blues, Auckland), Hoskins Sotutu (Blues, Counties Manukau)

Backs: Folau Fakatava (Highlanders, Hawke’s Bay), Aaron Smith (Highlanders, Manawatu), Finlay Christie (Blues, Tasman), Stephen Perofeta (Blues, Taranaki), Beauden Barrett (Blues, Taranaki), Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders, Canterbury), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Blues, Auckland), Quinn Tupaea (Chiefs, Waikato), Jack Goodhue (Crusaders, Northland), Rieko Ioane (Blues, Auckland), David Havili (Crusaders, Tasman), Leicester Fainga’anuku (Crusaders, Tasman), Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes, Taranaki), Will Jordan (Crusaders, Tasman), Caleb Clarke (Blues, Auckland), Sevu Reece (Crusaders, Tasman)

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