There are six uncapped players in the New Zealand squad for their upcoming Test matches against Ireland and England and the Tri Nations Series. The 26-man panel was announced earlier today by coach Graham Henry.
The new players included in the All Blacks squad are North Harbour trio Anthony Boric, Anthony Tuitavake and Rudi Wulf, Waikato’s Stephen Donald and Richard Kahui and Otago flanker Adam Thomson.
In all, there are 16 survivors from New Zealand’s 2007 World Cup squad, including team captain Richie McCaw, talismanic out-half Dan Carter and hooker Keven Mealamu.
Carter kicked four penalties and a drop goal in the Crusaders’ Super 14 final victory (20-12) over the Waratahs in Christchurch yesterday. Seven Crusaders players have made it into the New Zealand squad.
There are also recalls for centre Ma’a Nonu, lock Brad Thorn, prop John Afoa and versatile back rower Jerome Kaino, who beat Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip to the 2004 IRB Under-21 Player of the Year award.
Head coach Graham Henry said: “The new players impressed in the Super 14 and played their way into the squad. A few of them were not in the frame at the beginning of the year, but they proved they were some of the form players in New Zealand rugby.”
Injury wise, prop Tony Woodcock (toe) and scrum half Brendon Leonard (knee) have been ruled out of contention for next Saturday’s game against Ireland at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium (kick-off 7.35pm local time/8.35am Irish time (live Sky Sports 1)).
John Schwalger and Jimmy Cowan have joined the squad as back-up in the front row and at half-back, while winger Joe Rokocoko was not considered for selection after undergoing surgery on his injured wrist.
Commenting on the Ireland game, Henry said: “The Irish were strong when they came to New Zealand in 2006 and may be stronger this time.
“They’ve already been in camp for a couple of weeks, except for their Munster players who were winning the Heineken Cup. We need to be very aware of the challenge and focused on the task at hand.”
NEW ZEALAND Squad (Test matches v Ireland and England; Tri Nations Series): John Afoa (Auckland), Anthony Boric (North Harbour), Dan Carter (Canterbury), Stephen Donald (Waikato), Andy Ellis (Canterbury), Andrew Hore (Taranaki), Richard Kahui (Waikato), Jerome Kaino (Auckland), Sione Lauaki (Waikato), Brendon Leonard (Waikato), Richie McCaw (Canterbury) (capt), Leon MacDonald (Canterbury), Keven Mealamu (Auckland), Mils Muliaina (Waikato), Ma’a Nonu (Wellington), Sitiveni Sivivatu (Waikato), Conrad Smith (Wellington), Greg Somerville (Canterbury), Rodney So’oialo (Wellington), Adam Thomson (Otago), Brad Thorn (Tasman), Neemia Tialata (Wellington), Anthony Tuitavake (North Harbour), Ali Williams (Tasman), Tony Woodcock (North Harbour), Rudi Wulf (North Harbour).