Surprising calls in All Blacks squad

The big calls have been made, some expected, others more surprising.

Elliot Dixon, Damian McKenzie, Nathan Harris, Charlie Ngatai, Ardie Savea, Seta Tamanivalu and maybe the biggest surprises of all - Auckland prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi and Highlanders loosie Liam Squire - are in the All Black squad to prepare for the three tests against Wales.

Read more:
Follow all the live commentary and reaction in our live blog

The All Blacks have gone with only two halfbacks - the great Aaron Smith and Tawera Kerr-Barlow, who has been battling injuries. It is a big setback for TJ Perenara, whose stocks fell at the last World Cup.

And one time golden boy Israel Dagg is back, with coach Steve Hansen say it was a "no brainer" selection. Hansen said his defence had improved, and he as always good under the high ball.The break has given him new enthusiasm.

The selection of Chiefs midfielders Ngatai, who played against Samoa, and Seta Tamanivaulu is a signpost to the future with Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu out of the picture. However sevens recruit Sonny Bill Williams (another Chiefs man) having decided not to return to rugby league, there is another major long term option available.


Dixon had to be picked after a storming year or so for the Highlanders, a tough and physical loose forward who has the grunt and attitude for the highest level. Liam Squire is another robust loose forward who has been part of the Tasman success story.

But so much focus will be on McKenzie, who is still very much a work in progress. Selector Grant Fox said McKenzie is brave and "makes things happen".

He wouldn't elaborate on the work ons, but said: "This will help him grow his game. It's not if he is going to be an All bLack but when".

Tu'ungafasi can play both sides of the scrum - the All Blacks would have needed six props otherwise.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: "Many people, including our opponents, may be thinking we're vulnerable and are rebuilding. However, we don't have that mindset. We, as selectors, are very confident that we have both the talent and the experience to continue enhancing the legacy of the All Blacks."

"It's often said that when the tall trees that cast the largest shadows are cut down, the remaining smaller trees grow more rapidly. We believe we'll see players stand tall and take their game to a higher standard this season.

"This group of players, I can assure you, is very excited about the opportunities that lay ahead for them. They know it's their time, their moment, and they can't wait to make their mark in the jersey," Hansen added.

"We're well aware that what we did yesterday will not be enough for today, so we'll be looking to raise the bar to an even higher level from where we've been. This is our challenge - one, I must say, we're really looking forward to getting stuck into."

All Blacks squad to face Wales:
Forwards
Hookers

Dane Coles (Wellington, 36 Tests)
Codie Taylor (Canterbury, four Tests)
Nathan Harris (Bay of Plenty, two Tests)
Props
Wyatt Crockett (Canterbury, 45 Tests)
Charlie Faumuina (Auckland, 33 Tests)
Owen Franks (Canterbury, 78 Tests)
Joe Moody (Canterbury, 11 Tests)
Ofa Tu'ungafasi (Auckland, new cap)
Locks
Brodie Retallick (Hawke's Bay, 47 Tests)
Luke Romano (Canterbury, 22 Tests)
Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland, seven Tests)
Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury, 73 Tests)
Loose Forwards
Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty, 31 Tests)
Elliot Dixon (Southland, new cap)
Jerome Kaino (Auckland, 67 Tests)
Kieran Read, captain (Canterbury, 84 Tests)
Ardie Savea (Wellington, new cap)
Liam Squire (Tasman, new cap)
Backs
Halfbacks
Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Waikato, 20 Tests)
Aaron Smith (Manawatu, 47 Tests)
First five-eighths
Beauden Barrett (Taranaki, 36 Tests)
Aaron Cruden (Manawatu, 37 Tests)
Lima Sopoaga (Southland, one Test)
Midfielders
Ryan Crotty (Canterbury, 15 Tests)
Malakai Fekitoa (Auckland, 13 Tests)
Charlie Ngatai (Taranaki, one Test)
Seta Tamanivalu (Taranaki, new cap)
Outside backs
Israel Dagg (Hawke's Bay, 49 Tests)
Damian McKenzie (Waikato, new cap)
Waisake Naholo (Taranaki, three Tests)
Julian Savea (Wellington, 41 Tests)
Ben Smith (Otago, 48 Tests)

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 02 Oct 2016 11:38:50 Processing Time: 673ms