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All Blacks name Test squad

2012-06-03 10:04

Wellington - The All Blacks on Sunday named seven uncapped players in their 30-man squad for the Ireland Test series and threw a lifeline to out-of-form veterans Piri Weepu and Ali Williams.

In the first All Blacks squad to be chosen since they won the Rugby World Cup eight months ago, new head coach Steve Hansen is mixing experience with promise for the three-match series that starts on June 9 in Auckland.

"We have selected a really balanced squad of experienced players who have played with distinction over a number of Tests, and a group of young players with huge potential," he said.

The new forwards include locks Brodie Retallick and Luke Romano, flank Sam Cane - who is seen as heir apparent to captain Richie McCaw - and 20-year-old Ben Tameifuna, who started the year as a back-up prop at the Chiefs.

In the backs, flyhalf Beauden Barrett, scrumhalf Aaron Smith and wing Julian Savea are brought into the All Blacks for the first time.

Fifty-six-Test Weepu, who has struggled for form with the Blues and was not even required for their Super Rugby match against the Chiefs on Saturday.

Barrett is the third flyhalf behind Dan Carter and Aaron Cruden, but in talking up Weepu, Hansen praised his ability to also fill in at pivot, effectively giving the squad four number 10s.

However, there are only two scrumhalves with the in-form Andy Ellis sidelined to make way for Smith, who possesses a bullet-like pass, and Weepu.

Hansen acknowledged Weepu is playing well below par but believed he would return to his best for the international series.

"It came down to either Piri or Andy and we felt with Piri's added ability to goal-kick, and play flyhalf if we get a double-injury, they're advantages," Hansen said.

"He's very highly motivated, and that gives us confidence we'll get the Piri Weepu we know and we've all loved in the past."

Hansen added he had no concerns about Weepu's inability to secure regular game time with the Blues.

"The bigger the occasion the better he steps up. He's proven that, hence why we've stuck with him. We're confident he'll produce the goods for us in this series."

However, the public in rugby-obsessed New Zealand did not share Hansen's optimism with an on-line poll by the New Zealand Herald showing 63 percent against the contentious selection.

The Fairfax Media website drew feedback such as "what a disgrace", "the most ludicrous selection decision", and "what complete and utter garbage".

Last year, Weepu starred for the All Blacks in the World Cup at flyhalf after the first choice selections Carter, Colin Slade and Cruden were injured.

In the off-season he quit the Hurricanes and moved to the Blues, were he started the season unfit, overweight and faded from their regular starting line-up.

Williams and Ma'a Nonu are other members of the misfiring Blues whose All Blacks selection appears to fit with Hansen's preference for "proven performers" - even though they are struggling in the worst-performing New Zealand Super Rugby side.

Six established internationals including Cory Jane, Richard Kahui and Jerome Kaino were not considered because of injury.

Last year's All Blacks who missed selection include Jimmy Cowan, Jarrad Hoeata and Corey Flynn while Mils Muliaina, Stephen Donald and Brad Thorn have moved offshore.

All Blacks squad:

Forwards:

Sam Cane, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Richie McCaw (captain), Keven Mealamu, Kieran Read, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Ben Tameifuna, Adam Thomson, Victor Vito, Sam Whitelock, Ali Williams, Tony Woodcock

Backs:

Beauden Barrett, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Israel Dagg, Tamati Ellison, Hosea Gear, Zac Guildford, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Piri Weepu, Sonny Bill Williams

Hooker Hika Elliot has been named as standby for the injured Mealamu.

Itinerary:

June 9, 1st Test, at Auckland

June 16, 2nd Test, at Christchurch

June 23, 3rd Test, at Hamilton

AFP

Comments
  • goyougoodthing - 2012-06-03 10:57

    As long as McCheat is there, the All Blacks will continue to get away with murder.

      Dean - 2012-06-03 11:20

      I smell a drol !! Oops! its u so sorry. Yster!! We Blacks are titanium

      ckrohne1 - 2012-06-03 15:24

      You are worried about McCheat...it is confirmed the Aussies also have a cheater for a captain. HM must think carefully about his long term captain. I think Heinrich Brussow wound be a bad choice....

  • Dean - 2012-06-03 11:02

    Not really happy with weepu than again he is man for the big ones, that black jersey always transformed him. Well very soon we see Taylor and Robby in that line up. We might get tamalolo soon. Ali I think must my way for young blood, but than again All Black strategy is and was always for new incumbent players to perform well for more than one season before we bring them up. Go boys doenit !! All Blacks

      Wilhelm - 2012-06-03 11:16

      Taumalolo is already a Tongan international so not eligible for the AB's

      Pete - 2012-06-03 14:13

      Yes Weepu is a controversial pick - he has class though so should man up - good team - still... Go Bokke

      ahdeel1 - 2012-06-03 20:00

      Totally agree with your comment...Weepu is sure not to his best,but when he put on that black jersey he transform...Taylor and Robby unfortenate,but their time will come.

  • Henk - 2012-06-03 11:17

    Say what you want, but this is a great Kiwi side. SBW is playing some great footie!

      goyougoodthing - 2012-06-03 11:24

      SBW is playing awesome rugby. And this is a devastating side I have to admit.

  • Anwar - 2012-06-03 16:01

    Nice mix from all the franchises and yet still a lethal unit. Makes you think...........................

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