Four new caps for All Blacks' northern tour

The All Blacks selectors have named four new caps in their northern tour squad.

The Canterbury and Crusaders trio of prop Joe Moody, 22-year-old lock Dominic Bird and 22-year-old loose forward Luke Whitelock, who joins his brother Sam in the All Blacks, is joined by Counties Manukau and Blues winger Frank Halai, who was part of the All Blacks wider training group this year.

The squad also features the return of uncapped Wellington halfback TJ Perenara, who was named in the Rugby Championship squad but had to withdraw after suffering a stress fracture to a foot. His Wellington teammate Cory Jane is also in the squad after his late withdrawal from the test team to play Australia last night.

Another Wellington player, 20-year-old loose forward Ardie Savea, the brother of wing Julian, has been named as an "apprentice'' on the tour.

Canterbury lock Luke Romano, who is close to full recovery from his adductor tendon injury, has also been selected.

Canterbury midfielder Ryan Crotty also returns to the All Blacks after making his test debut against Australia in August after being called late into the side as injury cover.

Loose forward Matt Todd was unavailable for selection due to a chest injury.

The positional split for the squad sees 20 forwards selected (three hookers, six props, five locks and six loose forwards) and 16 backs (three halfbacks, four first five-eighths, three midfielders and six outside backs).

All Blacks Coach Steve Hansen said: "The selectors would like to congratulate those players picked in the All Blacks for the first time. It is always a special moment for any rugby player in New Zealand and we know they have all worked hard to get here so it's a proud moment for them and their families.''

Hansen said the All Blacks players and management were looking forward to the upcoming tour and each of the tests would bring their own unique challenge.

"The aim of the tour is to further develop our game structures, our skills sets and our individual players. We will be looking to use the tour to take ourselves beyond where we are at the moment,'' Hansen said.

He said of the Savea apprentice initiative: "We are continuing the scheme we started with the younger hookers who came into camp earlier this year, and, like them, the aim of the initiative is to give him exposure to all aspects of the All Blacks environment.''
The All Blacks squad assembles in Auckland next Friday for a two-day camp.

The first part of the Tour will see 27 players head to Tokyo on Monday October 28 to prepare for the first test against Japan on November 2, while nine players will head to Paris later in the week to start early preparations for the second test against France. The group heading to France will be named following the All Blacks camp.

All Blacks squad: Hookers - Dane Coles Wellington (11), Andrew Hore Taranaki (81), Keven Mealamu Auckland (108). Props - Wyatt Crockett Canterbury (20), Charlie Faumuina Auckland (14), Ben Franks Hawke's Bay (29), Owen Franks Canterbury (51), Joe Moody Canterbury *, Tony Woodcock North Harbour (105). Locks - Dominic Bird Canterbury *, Brodie Retallick Bay of Plenty (21), Luke Romano Canterbury (15), Jeremy Thrush Wellington (4), Samuel Whitelock Canterbury (48). Loose Forwards - Sam Cane Bay of Plenty (13), Steven Luatua Auckland
(8), Richie McCaw (c) Canterbury (120), Liam Messam Waikato (26), Kieran Read Canterbury (58), Luke Whitelock Canterbury *. Halfbacks - Tawera Kerr-Barlow Waikato (11), TJ Perenara Wellington *, Aaron Smith Manawatu (22). First five-eighths - Beauden Barrett Taranaki (14), Daniel Carter Canterbury (97), Aaron Cruden Manawatu (26), Tom Taylor Canterbury (2), Midfielders - Ryan Crotty Canterbury (1), Ma'a Nonu Wellington (85), Francis Saili North Harbour (1). Outside backs - Israel Dagg Hawke's Bay (35), Frank Halai Counties Manukau *, Cory Jane Wellington (43), Charles Piutau Auckland (7), Julian Savea Wellington (18), Ben Smith Otago (22).

- APNZ

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