The All Blacks announce their first 32-man squad of 2016, to contest the June test series against touring Wales. Commentary of NZ Rugby’s live announcement at the Heritage Hotel in Auckland.
All Blacks squad named for 2016 Steinlager Series
Experience and new talent unveiled
The All Blacks selectors Steve Hansen, Ian Foster and Grant Fox have named a mixture of experience and new talent for the three Steinlager Series Tests against Wales.
The squad is as follows: (with province and Test caps. New All Blacks are in bold.)
Dane Coles (Wellington, 36 Tests)
Codie Taylor (Canterbury, four Tests)
Nathan Harris (Bay of Plenty, two Tests)
Wyatt Crockett (Canterbury, 45 Tests)
Charlie Faumuina (Auckland, 33 Tests)
Owen Franks (Canterbury, 78 Tests)
Joe Moody (Canterbury, 11 Tests)
Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Auckland, new cap)
Brodie Retallick (Hawke’s Bay, 47 Tests)
Luke Romano (Canterbury, 22 Tests)
Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland, seven Tests)
Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury, 73 Tests)
Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty, 31 Tests)
Elliot Dixon (Southland, new cap)
Jerome Kaino (Auckland, 67 Tests)
Kieran Read, captain (Canterbury, 84 Tests)
Ardie Savea (Wellington, new cap)
Liam Squire (Tasman, new cap)
Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Waikato, 20 Tests)
Aaron Smith (Manawatu, 47 Tests)
Beauden Barrett (Taranaki, 36 Tests)
Aaron Cruden (Manawatu, 37 Tests)
Lima Sopoaga (Southland, one Test)
Ryan Crotty (Canterbury, 15 Tests)
Malakai Fekitoa (Auckland, 13 Tests)
Charlie Ngatai (Taranaki, one Test)
Seta Tamanivalu (Taranaki, new cap)
Israel Dagg (Hawke’s Bay, 49 Tests)
Damian McKenzie (Waikato, new cap)
Waisake Naholo (Taranaki, three Tests)
Julian Savea (Wellington, 41 Tests)
Ben Smith (Otago, 48 Tests)
As well as the 32-man squad, two players will assemble as injury replacements: Highlanders lock Tom Franklin for Whitelock and Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara for Kerr-Barlow.
A key feature is the selection of six uncapped players, seven when including Tom Franklin.
The other new All Blacks are standout young Blues prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi; the outstanding Highlanders loose forward duo of Elliot Dixon and Liam Squire; talented Hurricanes loose forward Ardie Savea; and exciting young Chiefs teammates Damian McKenzie and Seta Tamanivalu.
Not considered for selection due to injury was Nehe Milner-Skudder.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “The selectors would like to congratulate all players selected, especially the new All Blacks and those returning to the squad – they and their families can be very proud. We’d also like to congratulate Kieran and Ben on their respective appointments as Captain and Vice-Captain.”
Hansen also said the team was really energised by the challenges they would face this season.
“We know that there’s been a lot of interest around the selection of this first All Blacks squad of 2016, after what was a great season for us last year, and with a large group of experienced players moving on.
“Many people, including our opponents, may be thinking we’re vulnerable and are rebuilding. However, we don’t have that mindset. We, as selectors, are very confident that we have both the talent and the experience to continue enhancing the legacy of the All Blacks,” he said.
“It’s often said that when the tall trees that cast the largest shadows are cut down, the remaining smaller trees grow more rapidly. We believe we’ll see players stand tall and take their game to a higher standard this season.
“This group of players, I can assure you, is very excited about the opportunities that lay ahead for them. They know it’s their time, their moment, and they can’t wait to make their mark in the jersey,” Hansen added.
“We’re well aware that what we did yesterday will not be enough for today, so we’ll be looking to raise the bar to an even higher level from where we’ve been. This is our challenge – one, I must say, we’re really looking forward to getting stuck into.”
The make-up of the squad sees 18 forwards selected (three hookers, five props, four locks and six loose forwards) and 14 backs (two halfbacks, three first five-eighths, four midfielders and five outside backs) with an average age of 25.
The squad is made up of four Blues players, eight Chiefs, four Hurricanes, nine Crusaders and seven Highlanders while 11 of New Zealand’s provinces are represented with eight Canterbury players, five from Auckland, four from Taranaki, three from Wellington, two each from Southland, Manawatu, Hawke’s Bay, Bay of Plenty and Waikato, and one player from Tasman and Otago.
The All Blacks squad assembled in Auckland today to prepare for the first Test against Wales at Eden Park on Saturday 11 June. The second Test is at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, on Saturday 18 June, with the third and final Test at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, on Saturday 25 June. The Wellington Test will be an historic occasion: it will be the first time the All Blacks have played Wales in the capital city.
The All Blacks and Wales have a rivalry dating back to 1905 and have played each other 30 times, with 27 wins to New Zealand and three wins to the Welsh. The two teams last met in November 2014 in Cardiff, with the All Blacks winning 34-16.
The new All Blacks – mini biographies
ELLIOT DIXON has been in impressive, uncompromising form for the Highlanders for two seasons now and the loose forward was one of the stars as his team claimed its first title last year. 26-year-old Dixon made his debut for the Maori All Blacks on the 2012 European Tour and has played nine matches for the side. He has played more than 50 provincial matches for the Southland Stags as well as over 50 games for the Highlanders. He made his Super Rugby debut in 2012 and provincial debut in 2010.
DAMIAN MCKENZIE has taken things up a gear in 2016 and has been one of the standout players in his second year of Investec Super Rugby. The 21-year-old originally specialised at first five-eighth but is equally adept at fullback and was a stand-out in that position for New Zealand Under 20 at the 2014 Junior World Championship. He has impressed in that position in 2016 for the Chiefs, where he has also shared goal-kicking duties. He made his provincial debut in 2014.
ARDIE SAVEA formally joins the All Blacks for the first time after touring with the side as an apprentice on the 2013 end of year tour. Since that opportunity, the 22-year-old loose forward has continued to develop his speed and athleticism at both provincial and Investec Super Rugby level, with the Hurricanes relying on him in 2016, selecting him for ten matches in a row. The younger brother of All Blacks winger Julian, he made his Super Rugby debut in 2013 and provincial debut in 2012.
LIAM SQUIRE is a dynamic loose forward who has benefitted from a shift south from the Chiefs to the Highlanders in 2016. Originally from Manawatu, where he attended Palmerston North Boys’ High School, 25-year-old Squire made his provincial rugby debut in 2011 for the Tasman Makos. He trained with the All Blacks in 2014 and in 2015 missed just one game for the Makos, with his strong ball-carrying coming to the fore. A keen outdoorsman, Squire has also played for the Maori All Blacks. He made his Super Rugby debut in 2014.
SETA TAMANIVALU. In just his second season of Investec Super Rugby, electrifying midfield back Seta Tamanivalu has done plenty to earn All Blacks selection. The versatile 23-year-old – who can cover outside and midfield back positions – hasn’t missed a Super Rugby match this season, and has scored seven tries. This follows a strong 2015 season, in which he starred for both the Chiefs and Taranaki. He made his provincial debut in 2012 and was named provincial Player of the Year in his breakout season in 2014.
OFA TU’UNGAFASI. The 24-year-old prop has been in compelling form in 2016, appearing in every game for the Blues heading into the Steinlager Series. Tu’ungafasi was invited into the All Blacks training camp in June 2015 after appearing as one of the Blues’ standout players. He has also represented New Zealand at Under 17, Under 20 grades and Secondary Schools level. His father Mofuike played for Tonga at the 1987 RWC and his younger brother Isi also plays for Auckland. He made his Super Rugby debut in 2013 and provincial debut in 2012.
Steinlager Series Tests against Wales
1. ALL BLACKS vs. WALES. Saturday 11 June, 7.35PM, Eden Park, AUCKLAND
2. ALL BLACKS vs. WALES. Saturday 18 June, 7.35PM, Westpac Stadium, WELLINGTON
3. ALL BLACKS vs. WALES. Saturday 25 June, 7.35PM, Forsyth Barr Stadium, DUNEDIN
All Blacks Management
Steve Hansen – Head Coach / Selector
Ian Foster – Assistant Head Coach / Selector
Grant Fox – Selector
Darren Shand – Manager – Business & Operations
Gilbert Enoka – Manager – Leadership
Mike Cron – Assistant Coach – Forwards
Wayne Smith – Assistant Coach – Defence
Dr Nic Gill – Strength and Conditioning Coach
Jason Healy – Performance Analysis Manager
Jamie Hamilton – Performance Analyst
Dr Tony Page – Doctor
Peter Gallagher – Physiotherapist
George Duncan – Manual Therapist
Katrina Darry – Nutritionist
Bianca Thiel – Team Services Manager
Joe Locke – Media Manager
Kevin “Chalky” Carr – Logistics Manager
The All Blacks: With a history extending back more than a century, New Zealand’s national rugby team, the All Blacks, is not only the most successful international rugby team of all time but also one of the most successful teams in world sport, with a winning Test record of more than 75 percent. The All Blacks play European opponents every year in the Steinlager Series and again at the end of the year, and play Argentina, Australia and South Africa annually in the Investec Rugby Championship. In 2015 the All Blacks became the first team to win back-to-back Rugby World Cups, following their victory in 2011, and the first team to win three RWCs, with the All Blacks winning the inaugural Tournament in 1987. In 2013 they became the first international team in the professional era to go through the season unbeaten. The team has been named the World Rugby Team of the Year a record nine times and was Laureus Team of the Year in 2016.