Six Blues players have been named in the All Blacks team to face France in Paris on Saturday.
Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu feature in the most experienced All Blacks pack in history to take the field against one of their traditional foes, while fellow Blues players Ma’a Nonu and Charles Piutau have been selected in the backline.
Charlie Faumuina and Steven Luatua round out the Blues players included in the 23-man squad and will certainly make their impacts felt off the bench.
The team is (Test caps in brackets)
1. Tony Woodcock (105)
2. Keven Mealamu (108)
3. Owen Franks (51)
4. Brodie Retallick (21)
5. Samuel Whitelock (48)
6. Liam Messam (26)
7. Richie McCaw – captain (121)
8. Kieran Read (58)
9. Aaron Smith (23)
10. Daniel Carter (98)
11. Charles Piutau (8)
12. Ma’a Nonu (85)
13. Ben Smith (23)
14. Cory Jane (43)
15. Israel Dagg (35)
16. Dane Coles (12)
17. Wyatt Crockett (21)
18. Charlie Faumuina (15)
19. Steven Luatua (9)
20. Sam Cane (14)
21. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (12)
22. Aaron Cruden (27)
23. Ryan Crotty (2)
In the forwards, 105-Test veteran prop Tony Woodcock will pack down alongside his good friend and fellow All Blacks centurion, hooker Keven Mealamu, with 51-Test prop Owen Franks back from injury on the other side of the scrum. †Locks Samuel Whitelock and Brodie Retallick are in the middle row, with Liam Messam at six, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw back at openside flanker in his 122nd Test, and Kieran Read at number eight.
In the backline, Aaron Smith is at halfback, with Daniel Carter in the ten jersey in his 99th Test, while veteran midfielder Ma’a Nonu is at 12 and Ben Smith at centre. Winger Cory Jane has recovered from his hamstring injury and returns to the side on the right wing, while Charles Piutau is on the left wing and Israel Dagg is at fullback.
On the bench, Wyatt Crockett and Charlie Faumuina are the prop reserves with Dane Coles reserve hooker and Steven Luatua and Sam Cane are the other forward reserves. In the back reserves, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Cruden are covering the inside backs, with Ryan Crotty midfield and outside back cover.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “France are one of our great rugby foes and there is a rich history of matches between our two countries, so we are certainly looking forward to this weekend.
“The full squad has come together well after the Japan Test and are united with a common purpose – to play well on this Air New Zealand European Tour and put in performances that we can all be proud of. But we know this weekend’s Test won’t be easy – the French will come at us with real physicality, passion and something new.
“As well, the Dave Gallaher Trophy is again on the line, it means a lot to the team, and is certainly something extra to play for this weekend.”