The All Black selectors have rolled the dice and picked four newcomers in their 39 player Rugby Championship squad – wing Sevu Reece, midfielder/wing Braydon Ennor, first-five Josh Ioane and loose forward Luke Jacobson.
The other key aspect to the squad announcement at Ponsonby Rugby Club tonight was the fact Highlanders loose forward Liam Squire, battling with personal issues recently, has made himself unavailable for selection, and the non-selection of Chiefs halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, with his in-form teammate Brad Weber preferred, and absence of Chiefs hooker Nathan Harris, with Hurricane Asafo Aumua included instead.
None of the newcomers could be considered bolters as such, with Crusaders outside back Reece scoring 15 tries in his first season of Super Rugby and teammate Ennor impressing hugely as well.
Weber has been hugely influential for the Chiefs this season, as has his teammate Jacobson, a blindside flanker who appears a direct beneficiary of Squire's decision to opt out of the Rugby Championship.
Ioane, the Highlanders No10, has been picked as a back-up to Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga after Damian McKenzie's knee injury.
The selectors have decided not to name injured Crusaders pair Scott Barrett or Ryan Crotty after recent scans revealed hand injuries, and neither have they named replacements for them. It's clear they expect the lock and midfielder to recover in time for the World Cup which kicks off in the middle of September.
The greatest surprise was perhaps Squire's decision to opt out, and head coach Steve Hansen said his conversation with the Highlander was brief and to the point.
"Mate, I don't think I'm ready to play international football," Hansen recalled of their conversation. "I said 'okay', and we had a bit of a chat about that which I won't repeat. At the end of it we agreed and I said 'righto, that's a pretty courageous conversation, well done, you get back on the park and play some footy and we'll make a decision from there'."
Another who could feel slightly hard done by is Crusaders fullback David Havili, but Hansen said injuries would dictate the final make-up of the World Cup squad and no player on the fringes should consider themselves out of the reckoning.
"It's been an exciting team to select," Hansen said. "It's been a headache as well. We've had finals footy going on, we didn't know whether we could select a group of players staying at home [for Argentina test] – the Hurricanes or the Crusaders, two thirds of the way through the game [semifinal] we still didn't know.
"We got to where we needed to get to. I guess people are wondering why we've named a big squad. The main reason is we don't want to take the bulk of the finalists to Argentina … this year the main goals are the Rugby World Cup and Bledisloe Cup. We don't want them travelling after what has been a really tough finals campaign for them.
"In a couple of weeks' time we'll name a smaller squad of 34 players for the Bledisloe. What are the big aims for the next two games? Well, to play winning rugby and we want it to be exciting rugby as well. We want to start mastering the execution of our game and to do that we're going to have to keep improving our skills sets and decision making under pressure.
"Hopefully we can show some big improvement in our decision making under line speed which is an area of our game we believe everyone is going to chuck at us."
Hansen said Jacobson had been picked for his form and versatility. "Luke Jacobson has played really really great rugby. He's a very physical defender, a good ball carrier, plus he has the ability to beat people and offload in contact. And he can play multiple positions and going to the world Cup the more people we have who can do that the easier it will be to narrow the squad down to 31."
And he said Reece was an exciting prospect. "He just plays like he enjoys his rugby, doesn't he? He's a pocket rocket and I'm excited about working with him."
The 39-strong squad is as follows:
Asafo Aumua (22, Hurricanes / Wellington, uncapped)
Dane Coles (32, Hurricanes / Wellington, 60)
Liam Coltman (29, Highlanders / Otago, 4)
Codie Taylor (28, Crusaders / Canterbury, 41)
Owen Franks (31, Crusaders / Canterbury, 106)
Nepo Laulala (27, Chiefs / Counties Manukau, 17)
Joe Moody (30, Crusaders /Canterbury, 37)
Atu Moli (24, Chiefs / Tasman, uncapped)
Angus Ta'avao (29, Chiefs / Taranaki, 3)
Karl Tu'inukuafe (26, Blues / North Harbour, 13)
Ofa Tuungafasi (27, Blues / Auckland, 26)
Brodie Retallick (28, Chiefs / Hawke's Bay, 75)
Patrick Tuipulotu (26, Blues / Auckland, 21)
Samuel Whitelock (30, Crusaders / Canterbury, 108)
Jackson Hemopo (25, Highlanders / Manawatu,3)
Sam Cane (27, Chiefs / Bay of Plenty, 60)
Vaea Fifita (27, Hurricanes / Wellington, 9)
Shannon Frizell (25, Highlanders / Tasman, 4)
Luke Jacobson (22, Chiefs / Waikato, new cap)
Dalton Papalii (21, Blues / Auckland, 2)
Kieran Read (33, Crusaders / Counties Manukau, 118) — Captain
Ardie Savea (25, Hurricanes / Wellington, 35)
Matt Todd (31, Crusaders / Canterbury, 17)
TJ Perenara (27, Hurricanes / Wellington, 55)
Aaron Smith (30, Highlanders / Manawatu, 82)
Brad Weber (28, Chiefs / Hawke's Bay, 1)
Beauden Barrett (28, Hurricanes / Taranaki, 73)
Josh Ioane (23, Highlanders / Otago, new cap)
Richie Mo'unga (25, Crusaders / Canterbury, 9)
Jack Goodhue (24, Crusaders / Northland, 7)
Ngani Laumape (26, Hurricanes / Manawatu, 10)
Anton Lienert-Brown (24, Chiefs / Waikato, 33)
Sonny Bill Williams (33, Blues / Counties Manukau, 51)
Braydon Ennor (21, Crusaders / Canterbury, new cap)
Jordie Barrett (22, Hurricanes / Taranaki, 9)
George Bridge (24, Crusaders / Canterbury, 1)
Rieko Ioane (22, Blues / Auckland, 24)
Sevu Reece (22, Crusaders / Waikato, new cap)
Ben Smith (33, Highlanders /Otago, 76)