The All Blacks have their named their first squad of 2019, picking four potential debutants in a strong 39-man squad for the upcoming Rugby Championship.
Chiefs flanker Luke Jacobson, Highlanders five-eighth Josh Ioane and the Crusaders backline pair of Braydon Ennor back Sevu Reece have are the four uncapped players in the squad as coach Steve Hansen keeps one eye on the Rugby World Cup in Septemeber.
Luke Whitelock, Akira Ioane, David Havili and All Blacks legend Ma’a Nonu, who looks to have missed his last chance at wearing the black again, are some of the notable exceptions from the announcement. Liam Squire is absent from the squad as well after making himself unavailable for selection, stating his unreadiness to return to the international stage.
Also missing out on the squad, but purely due to injury reasons, are Ryan Crotty, Scott Barrett, Tim Perry and Damian McKenzie.
Hansen has named a larger squad than usual to factor in the Crusaders late run in their Super Rugby campaign, with the final this Saturday against the Jaguares.
“It allows us to pick a very strong squad for what will be a challenging first Test against Argentina in Buenos Aires, while at the same time giving most of the Crusaders players in the All Blacks a rest from what has been a very tough Investec Super Rugby Finals campaign,” Hansen said.
He also made it clear that his side is as hungry as ever to achieve success in all tournaments they play in.
“We’re going to try and do something that’s never been done before and that’s to win three Rugby World Cups in a row. However, that’s not a given. We’re going to have to be hungry for success and we’re going to have to work incredibly hard and smart to achieve this.
“Whilst recapturing the Rugby World Cup and the Bledisloe Cup are two of the end goals for the year, we have to deal with the here and now, which is getting ready to face two quality oppositions in Argentina and South Africa.
“The challenge and the aim of the first two matches is not only to play winning rugby but attractive, exciting rugby. To do this, we’ll have to quickly reconnect the players from the various Super Rugby clubs back into the All Blacks’ ways. We will need to master our game by improving our execution. To do this, our skillsets and decision making will be our key focus.”
After the Rugby Championship, the squad will be filtered down to 31 players for the World Cup.
Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Liam Coltman, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Atu Moli, Angus Ta’avao, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Samuel Whitelock, Jackson Hemopo, Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Shannon Frizell, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papalii, Kieran Read (c), Ardie Savea, Matt Todd
TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Josh Ioane, Richie Mo’unga, Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Braydon Ennor, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece, Ben Smith