British Lions

Three Barretts in Hansen's 'toughest' squad to face Lions

2017-06-08 06:32
Beauden Barrett (Getty)

Auckland - Three Barrett brothers were named on Thursday in a powerful All Blacks squad to face the British and Irish Lions with Jordie Barrett one of only two new players in the New Zealand side.

Coach Steve Hansen called it one of the "toughest" squads he has had to select as he assembled a line-up with 1 164 Test caps worth of experience for a warm-up Test against Samoa and then three against the Lions.

The pressure is on the All Blacks to live up to their world champion status against the best drawn from Britain and Ireland.

Hansen gambled on a number of injured senior players, including captain Kieran Read (thumb), hooker Dane Coles (concussion) and centre Ryan Crotty (ribs), passing fitness tests.

As a precaution another five players were placed on standby as injury cover for the 33-man squad.

The 20-year-old Jordie Barrett, who accompanied the All Blacks as an "apprentice" on their northern tour last year, steps up to join his older brothers Beauden and Scott with full All Blacks status.

It is the first time three brothers have been in the same All Blacks squad and only the fourth time three members of the same family have been made All Blacks.

Jodie Barrett's Hurricanes team-mate Ngani Laumape is the only other newcomer in a squad which includes four members of the Blues who upset the Lions 22-16 on Wednesday as well as Jerome Kaino who is still recovering from knee surgery.

"This has been by far the toughest team that we've had to select for some time and some players who are in very good form missed out, and we always feel for them," Hansen said.

"But as is the nature of Test rugby I'm sure a number of them will get an opportunity, if not in this series, then throughout the season."

Of the two new All Blacks, Hansen said Barrett "has a skillset which is complete and has a great running and kicking game".

"Ngani too has been impressive throughout the Super season and has forced his way in through commanding performances."

Hansen has banked on Coles being fit although the 30-year-old hooker with 49 Tests to his name has been sidelined for almost three months with concussion symptoms.

Brodie Retallick was also named despite "headache" concerns keeping him out of Friday's Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and Hurricanes.

Rieko Ioane, 20, the latest model from the New Zealand production line of powerful wings, cemented his place with a blockbusting display for the Blues against the Lions.

Hansen said the Lions series, coming midway between the four-yearly World Cups, was "a great opportunity to gauge where we're at from both an individual and a team perspective".

"As always, we'll look forward to growing our game, as we know that if we don't keep improving, others will go past us."

Super Rugby leaders, the Crusaders, who the Lions face in Christchurch on Saturday, have 10 players in the squad which is made up of 17 forwards and 16 backs.

All Blacks squad to face the British & Irish Lions:

Forwards

Dane Coles (Hurricanes), Codie Taylor (Crusaders), Nathan Harris (Chiefs), Owen Franks (Crusaders), Charlie Faumuina (Blues), Joe Moody (Crusaders), Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders), Ofa Tu'ungafasi (Blues), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), Sam Whitelock (Crusaders), Luke Romano (Crusaders), Scott Barrett (Crusaders), Sam Cane (Chiefs), Jerome Kaino (Blues), Kieran Read (captain, Crusaders), Ardie Savea (Hurricanes), Liam Squire (Highlanders)

Backs

Aaron Smith (Highlanders), TJ Perenara (Hurricanes), Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Chiefs), Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes), Aaron Cruden (Chiefs), Lima Sopoaga (Highlanders), Ryan Crotty (Crusaders), Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes), Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs), Sonny Bill Williams (Blues), Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes), Ben Smith (Highlanders), Julian Savea (Hurricanes), Waisake Naholo (Highlanders), Rieko Ioane (Blues), Israel Dagg (Crusaders)

Fixtures:

June 16 v Samoa in Auckland

June 24 v Lions in Auckland

July 1 v Lions in Wellington

July 8 v Lions in Auckland

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