Seven Blues players have been selected to attend the All Blacks training camps ahead of the three Steinlager Series Tests against England.
Lock Patrick Tuipulotu has been included for the first time, joining fellow Blues players Jerome Kaino, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua and Ma’a Nonu in the 35-man squad.
The two training camps will be held in Christchurch from Sunday 18 May – Tuesday 20 May and Wellington from Sunday 25 May – Tuesday 27 May.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said the two camps would once again form a massive part of the team’s preparations for the Steinlager Series against England.
“With players coming from five different Super Rugby teams, it’s important that we get aligned on our game plans and skill sets. The challenge the English bring means we will need to be at our very best as quickly as possible.
“The camps also give the All Blacks Management time to meet and learn in greater details about some of the younger players who have been named. The All Blacks Management would like to thank the Super Rugby coaches and teams for their support in agreeing to these camps.”
Hansen said the number of players attending the camps was limited to 35 so, as usual, there were several players whom the All Blacks Management already knew about who would not be attending the camps.
Hansen said the official 31-man All Blacks squad for the Steinlager Series will be named in Auckland on Sunday 1 June and the camps and Investec Super Rugby games between now and then would help the selectors finalise the squad.
The players attending the wider training camps are as follows:
Hookers: Keven Mealamu (Blues), Nathan Harris (Chiefs), Dane Coles (Hurricanes) and Liam Coltman (Highlanders).
Props: Charlie Faumuina and Tony Woodcock (Blues), Ben Franks (Hurricanes) and Wyatt Crockett and Owen Franks (Crusaders).
Locks: Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), Jeremy Thrush * (Hurricanes) and Dominic Bird and Sam Whitelock (Crusaders).
Loose forwards: Jerome Kaino and Steven Luatua (Blues), Sam Cane and Liam Messam (Chiefs), Victor Vito (Hurricanes) and Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Luke Whitelock * (Crusaders).
Halfbacks: Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Chiefs), TJ Perenara (Hurricanes) and Aaron Smith (Highlanders).
First five-eighths: Aaron Cruden (Chiefs), Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes) and Colin Slade (Crusaders).
Midfielders: Ma’a Nonu (Blues), Conrad Smith (Hurricanes), Ryan Crotty (Crusaders) and Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders).
Outside backs: Cory Jane and Julian Savea (Hurricanes), Israel Dagg (Crusaders) and Ben Smith (Highlanders).
* Note: Thrush will be attending the Wellington camp only and Luke Whitelock the Christchurch camp.
The All Blacks play England at Eden Park, Auckland, on Saturday 7 June; Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, on Saturday 14 June; and Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, on Saturday 21 June.