New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has named his 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup, but there is no place for veteran prop Owen Franks.
Tighthead prop Franks is left out along with inside centre Ngani Laumape as the All Blacks opt for Atu Moli, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Angus Ta’avao and Ofa Tuungafasi as their props while Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams are the midfield options.
The squad features 17 forwards and 14 backs with the following positional breakdown: three hookers, five props, four locks, five loose forwards, three scrum-halves, two fly-halves, four midfielders and five outside backs.
The All Blacks will again be captained by Kieran Read, who will be taking part in his third Rugby World Cup, together with lock Samuel Whitelock and centre Williams. Nine players will be going to their second tournament, while 19 are going to their first.
All Blacks head coach Hansen said: “The All Blacks selectors would like to congratulate all those selected for Rugby World Cup 2019. It’s a special moment being named in any All Blacks squad but especially when it’s the Rugby World Cup and they and their families can be incredibly proud of what they’ve achieved.
“As always, we’d also like to take a moment to respect the effort and disappointment of those who’ve missed out. It’s a tough time in anyone’s career. The selectors wanted to point out that it wasn’t a case of anyone not being good enough to be selected, but more the fact that we can only take 31, so there was always go to be some very talented athletes that would miss out. Having said that, as we know from previous Rugby World Cups and other campaigns, we may have injuries so those players who missed out may get an opportunity,” he added.
Hansen said over the last couple of months the team had been working at getting their game plans sorted while the selectors had been using the games to get greater clarity around the selection of the team.
“Now we are finally in a position to put all our time, effort and thinking into what is going to be an awesome challenge to try and do something that’s never been done before – win three Rugby World Cups in a row,” he said.
“Jordie, TJ & Crotty can all play first five. And if we need him, Ben Smith could play there as well. He’s played everywhere else in the backline” – Hansen on back up 10s#BACKBLACK pic.twitter.com/HBazkGB3GX
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) August 28, 2019
“Yes, it will come with massive expectation and therefore pressure. We’re looking forward to tackling that pressure head on and enjoying everything that comes with it. We know it’ll be tough and that we’ll need to earn the right, every time we play, to continue throughout the tournament. However, that’s exciting and knowing we’ve faced that pressure before gives us confidence. There are no guarantees in sport. However, with talent, hard work and mental fortitude, we’ll give ourselves a chance.
“This Rugby World Cup looks like being the most fiercely-contested yet with a large number of teams all believing they can win. This will bring possibly more pressure and expectation on them than ever before and it will be interesting to see who can and who can’t cope with it.”
The All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad boasts 1,195 Test caps with huge international experience balanced with a number of newer All Blacks. Read is the most capped player with 121 Test caps, while loose forward Luke Jacobson is the newest All Black with one Test cap. The side has an average age of 27.
The All Blacks will kick off their Rugby World Cup campaign against South Africa in Yokahama (Saturday 21 September), then play Canada in Oita (Wednesday 2 October), Namibia in Tokyo (Sunday 6 October), and their final Pool match against Italy in Toyota (Saturday 12 October).
New Zealand squad for Rugby World Cup
Forwards: Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Liam Coltman, Atu Moli, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Angus Ta’avao, Ofa Tuungafasi, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Patrick Tuipulotu, Kieran Read (c), Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Matt Todd, Luke Jacobson
Backs: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece, Ben Smith