Five Blues players have been selected for the All Blacks team for the Samoa Test, Investec Rugby Championship and extra Bledisloe Cup Test as announced today.
Blues Hooker Keven Mealamu, Props Charlie Faumuina and Tony Woodcock, Loose Forward Jerome Kaino and Outside Back Charles Piutau will continue their All Black careers beyond the 2015 Super Rugby season.
The full squad is as follows: (with Investec Super Rugby and provincial teams and Test caps. * indicates a new All Black).
Dane Coles – Hurricanes / Wellington (27)
Hikawera Elliot – Chiefs / Poverty Bay (3)
Keven Mealamu – Blues / Auckland (123)
Codie Taylor – Crusaders / Canterbury *
Wyatt Crockett – Crusaders / Canterbury (27)
Charlie Faumuina – Blues / Auckland (20)
Ben Franks – Hurricanes / Hawke’s Bay (31)
Owen Franks – Crusaders / Canterbury (57)
Joe Moody – Crusaders / Canterbury (8)
Tony Woodcock – Blues /North Harbour (110)
James Broadhurst – Hurricanes / Taranaki *
Brodie Retallick – Chiefs / Bay of Plenty (36)
Luke Romano – Crusaders / Canterbury (17)
Jeremy Thrush – Hurricanes / Wellington (11)
Samuel Whitelock – Crusaders / Canterbury (62)
Sam Cane – Chiefs / Bay of Plenty (22)
Jerome Kaino – Blues /Auckland (56)
Richie McCaw (captain) – Crusaders / Canterbury (137)
Liam Messam – Chiefs / Waikato (40)
Kieran Read – Crusaders / Canterbury (72)
Matt Todd – Crusaders / Canterbury (2)
Victor Vito – Hurricanes / Wellington (26)
Tawera Kerr-Barlow – Chiefs / Waikato (15)
TJ Perenara – Hurricanes / Wellington (11)
Aaron Smith – Highlanders / Manawatu (38)
Beauden Barrett – Hurricanes / Taranaki (28)
Daniel Carter – Crusaders / Canterbury (102)
Colin Slade – Crusaders /Canterbury (17)
Lima Sopoaga – Highlanders / Southland *
Ryan Crotty – Crusaders / Canterbury (13)
Malakai Fekitoa – Highlanders / Auckland (8)
Ma’a Nonu – Hurricanes / Wellington (94)
Conrad Smith – Hurricanes / Wellington (85)
Sonny Bill Williams – Chiefs / Counties Manukau (23)
Israel Dagg – Crusaders /Hawke’s Bay (46)
Cory Jane – Hurricanes / Wellington (48)
Nehe Milner-Skudder – Hurricanes / Manawatu *
Waisake Naholo – Highlanders / Taranaki *
Charles Piutau – Blues /Auckland (14)
Julian Savea – Hurricanes / Wellington (33)
Ben Smith – Highlanders / Otago (38)
Meanwhile, Crusaders and Canterbury prop Nepo Laulala has also been named as an injury replacement for Blues player Charlie Faumuina, who has a neck injury, but is expected to return to rugby near the end of The Rugby Championship. 26-Test All Black and Crusaders and Canterbury halfback Andy Ellis has also been named as a replacement player for Tawera Kerr-Barlow who will be released to play some games until he is ready to return to international duty.
Players not considered for selection due to injury were halfback Augustine Pulu, first five-eighth Aaron Cruden, hooker Nathan Harris, and Blues players loose forward Steven Luatua and lock Patrick Tuipulotu.
The squad is made up of 22 forwards (three hookers, six props, five locks and seven loose forwards) and 19 backs (three halfbacks, four first five-eighths, five midfielders and seven outside backs) and will again be captained by All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw.
All New Zealand’s Investec Super Rugby teams are represented with five Highlanders players, 13 Crusaders, 12 Hurricanes, six Chiefs and five Blues, while 11 ITM Cup and a Heartland Championship province are represented, led by Canterbury (13 players) with Wellington (eight); Auckland (five), Taranaki (three), Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay and Manawatu (two each); and North Harbour, Counties Manukau, Otago and Poverty Bay (one each).
The All Blacks squad boasts an average age of 27 and the unveiling of the five new All Blacks continues what has been a successful hallmark of the current All Blacks selection panel, with 33 new players now introduced to the All Blacks in the last four seasons.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “The selectors would like to congratulate those new All Blacks we have named today. It is always a proud moment when a player is named in the All Blacks for the first time and they have all worked incredibly hard to get here.
“As is always the case with squad selections, we also had to leave out some players who are unlucky not to be selected. They will get further opportunities to stake their claims in the NZ Maori and Barbarians sides, that play next month.
“We have selected a large squad of 41 players, partly through necessity, with two New Zealand teams still involved in the Super Rugby competition. But, more importantly, it also gives us the chance to work with some athletes we haven’t worked with before and see how they cope at Test level. This will allow us to make better decisions when it comes to selecting our Rugby World Cup team in August. I would like to thank New Zealand Rugby and the Board for allowing us to pick a squad of this size.”
Hansen said 2015 was going to be another exciting year for All Blacks rugby, with winning the Rugby World Cup and the Bledisloe Cup the two major priorities for the year.
“As always, our planning is about today, tomorrow and the future. But our main priority now will be to get this group functioning as its own team as quickly as possible. With only five games before the Rugby World Cup, it’s important that we get game plans and other aspects of our environment embedded as quickly as possible.”
Hansen said the “immediate focus” was preparing for the historic Samoan Test in Apia on 8 July.
“We are looking forward to taking on that particular challenge and we know it will be a passionate Samoan side and a pretty special occasion.”
Hansen confirmed the team to play Samoa would not include any players from any New Zealand teams that made it through to the Super Rugby Final.
“It may even mean we possibly have to bring in some extra players in certain positions, but we will wait and see how the Super Rugby finals unfold.
“Following the Samoa Test, Argentina, South Africa and Australia will again bring their own unique strengths to each contest and we look forward to playing them over the weeks ahead.”
The All Blacks squad will assemble on Auckland’s North Shore on Wednesday this week for a three-day camp minus the 18 players in the Hurricanes and Highlanders, who will be preparing for this weekend’s Super Rugby semifinal matches. Following the camp this week, the All Blacks will re-assemble in Auckland on Wednesday 1 July to prepare for the Test against Samoa.