Wellington hooker Dane Coles and Waikato halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow are the new caps in the All Blacks squad for the Britain-Europe tour next month - and old hands Ali Williams and Piri Weepu are both included.
The squad of 32 for tests against Scotland, Italy, Wales, and England was named at the Prebbleton rugby club today.
Kerr-Barlow was selected as third halfback because he was in form, said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. It allowed the selectors to bring more young blood into the black jersey and with Coles brought the number of new caps this year to nine, he pointed out.
Coles had been in a two-horse race with Hika Elliot - "we know a lot about Hika, and the door is not closed on his opportunities in the future, but we do need to find out a little more about Dane Coles so hence his selection''.
There was obviously debate about the fourth lock but Williams was a 75-test veteran, Hansen said.
"Yes, he hasn't played a lot of rugby because of injury, but we know he's got the mental capacity to do the job on the field. He brings with him a huge amount of experience and we know he's good at assisting young guys, so [Brodie] Retallick and [Luke] Romano will benefit from that.''
The All Black coach said he had personally contacted Canterbury halfback Andy Ellis, who was overlooked in spite of his outstanding form in the ITM Cup.
"He couldn't have done much more and he played particularly well in the ITM Cup,'' he said.
Ellis knew the door was not shut on him. "He's shown us he's got the grit and determination to want to be there. He's just got to take that form into Super rugby next year and if he does that he's going to be in contention with a number of other people.''
Hansen said Adam Thomson was in on merit although his future is up in the air. "He's
played a lot of rugby over the years and perhaps his body was telling him it was time to go somewhere else - we'll support him in whatever he does. In the meantime we know he's in good form.''
Asked if another in-form player, Canterbury skipper George Whitelock, the only ever present in Canterbury's record five national ITM Cup victories, had been considered, Hansen said he had to just "keep knocking at the door and I'm sure his opportunity will come''.
Hansen said he would use every player in the first two matches against Scotland and Italy.
Forwards: Keven Mealamu, Andrew Hore, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock, Owen Franks, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Wyatt Crockett, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Ali Williams, Richie McCaw (c), Sam Cane, Kieran Read, Liam Messam, Victor Vito, Adam Thomson.
Backs: Aaron Smith, Piri Weepu, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, Ma'a Nonu, Tamati Ellison, Conrad Smith, Ben Smith, Cory Jane, Hosea Gear, Julian Savea, Israel Dagg.
All Blacks itinerary:
Nov 12 v Scotland, Edinburgh
Nov 18 v Italy, Rome
Nov 25 v Wales, Cardiff
Dec 2 v England, Twickenham