World rugby has reacted with disbelief at the naming of the All Blacks squad for the World Cup in Japan - with many leading media organisations and fans expressing shock at the decision to exclude 108-cap veteran Owen Franks.

Franks, Liam Squire and Ngani Laumape were the most noticeable absentees from the 31-man squad named in Auckland this afternoon, with Fox Sports calling the trio's omission "ruthless" under the headline All Bl-axed! 144 caps gone as ruthless NZ run a knife through World Cup squad.

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The site also suggested head coach Steve Hansen was taking a risk by including only two specialist first-fives in Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga.

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"There are just two specialist five-eighths named, with Hansen banking on Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga enjoying an injury-free run," Fox Sports reported.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen made a few shock selections. Photo / Getty
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen made a few shock selections. Photo / Getty

AFP and the roar.com.au called Franks' axing a "shock omission", while the former expressed some surprise at the inclusion of seasoned utility back Ben Smith despite some recent poor form.

AAP's line was about "sentimentality being cast aside in the name of speed", as Franks was replaced by the more mobile Atu Moli, with the Sydney Morning Herald describing it as a "major bombshell".

The mass interest in the squad was evident when the All Blacks' official website crashed shortly after the announcement and the hashtags #RWC2019, #AllBlacks and #NewZealand soared to the top of Twitter's trending topics.

Unsurprisingly, fans took to social media to voice their opinions on the selections - with Franks' absence a hot topic.

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"No Owen Franks!" one user wrote with a shocked face emoji. "Understandable but you have to feel for the man, cruel game this."

"Incredible that the @AllBlacks have deemed 108-cap Owen Franks surplus to requirements. He'd probably start for just about every other country, yet won't be at the @rugbyworldcup this autumn," another wrote.

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Many fans were equally puzzled by No 12 Laumape missing the cut with Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty and Anton Lienert-Brown all preferred in midfield.

"I Understand Franks & Squire, But Seriously How Did Ngani Laumape Miss Out?"

"Stoked Luke Jacobson made the @AllBlacks squad for #RWC2019, but gutted for Ngani Laumape. Couldn't have done anything more to make the squad. Would have liked impact from a player of his calibre off the bench," wrote another.

All Blacks legend Dan Carter was quick to congratulate the selected team while offering his sympathy for those who didn't.

"Rugby World Cups are where dreams are made. A special congratulations to all the boys selected for the @allblacks RWC squad. Commiserations to the guys that missed out. The work starts now #letsgooo #allblackeverything," he wrote on Twitter.

The All Blacks will play South Africa, Canada, Namibia and Italy in pool matches starting on September 21, before heading into the knockout rounds.

All Blacks squad: Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Angus Ta'avao, Ofa Tuungafasi, Atu Moli, Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Liam Coltman, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Luke Jacobson, Matt Todd, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (captain), Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Brad Weber, Richie Mo'unga, Beauden Barrett, Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece, George Bridge, Jordie Barrett, Ben Smith