The All Blacks have named a formidable 33-man squad for the upcoming series against the British and Irish Lions, including two backline debutants.
Former New Zealand Warriors outside-back Ngani Laumape has won a call-up in just his second season of Super Rugby, ousting Test reps Malakai Fekitoa and George Moala from a four-strong midfield contingent.
Meanwhile, fellow Hurricanes gun Jordie Barrett joins brothers Beauden and Scott in the squad, beating Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie for a spot. They become the first set of three brothers named in the same All Blacks squad.
Other unlucky omissions include World Cup hero Nehe Milner-Skudder (with boom Blues back Rieko Ioane nabbing a place) and Matt Todd.
Dane Coles has been named despite being an unlikely starter due to ongoing concussion issues; Codie Taylor and Nathan Harris are the other two hookers in the squad, with the Highlanders’ Liam Coltman missing out.
Todd, Coltman, Jack Goodhue, Vaea Fifita and Akira Ioane have been named as injury cover.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) June 8, 2017
“Obviously, it’s a very special occasion for the Barrett and Laumape families, with Jordie and Ngani being selected for the first time. Jordie has been in outstanding form, he has a skillset which is complete and has a great running and kicking game. Ngani too has been impressive throughout the Super season and has forced his way in through commanding performances,” All Blacks coach Hansen said.
“This has been by far the toughest team that we’ve had to select for some time and some players who are in very good form missed out, and we always feel for them. But as is the nature of Test rugby I’m sure a number of them will get an opportunity, if not in this Series, then throughout the season.”
“We’re really appreciative of the opportunity to play Samoa first up. The Samoan game is ideal in preparing us for the challenge that comes with the Lions.
“We see the DHL New Zealand Lions Series as a great opportunity to gauge where we’re at from both an individual and a team perspective. As always, we’ll look forward to growing our game, as we know that if we don’t keep improving, others will go past us.
“We’re excited by the uniqueness that comes with playing a Lions Series as it only comes around every 12 years.”
The squad is as follows: (with province and Test caps in brackets)
Dane Coles (Wellington, 49)
Codie Taylor (Canterbury, 15)
Nathan Harris (Bay of Plenty, 4)
Wyatt Crockett (Canterbury, 58)
Charlie Faumuina (Auckland, 46)
Owen Franks (Canterbury, 90)
Joe Moody (Canterbury, 24)
Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Auckland, 4)
Scott Barrett (Taranaki, 4)
Brodie Retallick (Hawke’s Bay, 60)
Luke Romano (Canterbury, 26)
Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury, 84)
Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty, 40)
Jerome Kaino (Auckland, 74)
Kieran Read, captain (Counties Manukau, 97)
Ardie Savea (Wellington, 12)
Liam Squire (Tasman, 8)
— Hurricanes Rugby (@Hurricanesrugby) June 8, 2017
Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Waikato, 25)
TJ Perenara (Wellington, 29)
Aaron Smith (Manawatu, 58)
Beauden Barrett (Taranaki, 49)
Aaron Cruden (Manawatu, 47)
Lima Sopoaga (Southland, 6)
Ryan Crotty (Canterbury, 26)
Ngani Laumape (Manawatu, uncapped)
Anton Leinert-Brown (Waikato, 9)
Sonny Bill Williams (Counties Manukau, 33)
Jordie Barrett (Taranaki, uncapped)
Israel Dagg (Hawke’s Bay, 61)
Rieko Ioane (Auckland, 2)
Waisake Naholo (Taranaki, 12)
Julian Savea (Wellington, 52)
Ben Smith (Otago, 60)
— Chiefs Rugby (@ChiefsRugby) June 8, 2017