New Zealand call up three uncapped players for France series
New Zealand have named three uncapped players in their 33-man squad to face France in a three-Test series next month.
Head coach Steve Hansen, who is continuing his squad’s preparations ahead of their World Cup defence in Japan next year, has brought in loose forwards Shannon Frizell and Jordan Taufua, along with scrum-half Te Toiroa Tahuiorangi.
Sam Whitelock, who has 95 caps for the All Blacks, will captain the team with regular skipper Kieran Read injured.
Prop Tim Perry, and backs Richie Mo’unga and Jack Goodhue who were involved with the All Blacks on last year’s northern tour but have yet to make their Test debuts have also been included, with the first match of the series on June 9, live on Sky Sports.
Hansen said 2018 “will be about consolidation” for the All Blacks ahead of next year’s World Cup.
“We’ll look to continue to grow our player depth and expose more players to our environment and Test rugby,” he said.
“In doing so, create consistent, ingrained habits that will hold up under the greatest of pressures, which is Test rugby.”
Hurricanes winger Ben Lam, the leading try scorer in Super Rugby this year, is a notable absentee from the squad and the selectors have focused on versatility
“It’s a big bonus if you’ve got someone who can slot into more than one position,” Hansen said.
“It was a really tough squad to select, more so because there are some very talented players who have missed out.”
The squad includes 17 forwards and 16 backs and is dominated by the top two Super Rugby sides, with 10 players from the Crusaders and eight from the Hurricanes.
The availability of Owen Franks will depend on the outcome of a judicial hearing on Sunday evening where the 95-Test prop has been cited for foul play during the Crusaders’ 32-24 win over the Blues on Saturday.
New Zealand v France series
1st Test: Auckland – June 9
2nd Test: Wellington – June 16
3rd Test: Dunedin – June 23
New Zealand squad:
Backs: Jordie Barrett, Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Rieko Ioane, Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Ryan Crotty, Richie Mo’unga, Damian McKenzie, Beauden Barrett, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith.
Forwards: Luke Whitelock, Jordan Taufua, Liam Squire, Shannon Frizell, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock (c), Owen Franks, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Jeff To’omaga-Allen, Tim Perry, Joe Moody, Nathan Harris, Codie Taylor.