All Blacks 2018
I guess the 2018 All Black squad is as interesting for the names that are not in the squad as it is for the names we do find there.
Firstly, there are those who were not considered. The obvious being Kieran Read, last year’s captain. Read is only just starting to make a come-back into the game after an extended injury rehabilitation period and is not ready to play yet. Other players not considered for selection due to injury were Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Kane Hames, Nepo Laulala, Atu Moli, Patrick Tuipulotu and Israel Dagg.
Veteran lock-forward and Crusaders’ captain Sam Whitelock has been named captain for the Tests, with fullback Ben Smith and loose forward Sam Cane named as Vice-captains. Whitelock has captained the team once before, against Wales in the last Test of 2017.
Three New Faces
There are three new faces in the All Black squad.
Highlanders loose forward Shannon Frizell, Crusaders loose forward Jordan Taufua and Chiefs scrumhalf Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi have all been called up to join the squad. They will join Tim Perry, Richie Mo’unga and Jack Goodhue, three others who have yet to earn a Test cap, but who have played non-Test matches for the All Blacks in 2017.
Meanwhile prop Owen Franks and Hurricanes outside back Nehe Milner-Skudder are recalled after missing the end of last year’s All Blacks season through injury.
As well as the 33-man squad, two other players will assemble with the squad.
Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman, will come in as paternity cover for Nathan Harris, whose partner is expecting a baby during the June series against France; while Blues loose forward Akira Ioane will assemble as well, with the All Blacks selectors wanting to take the opportunity to continue his development at international level.
“It was a really tough squad to select, more so because there are some very talented players who have missed out,” All Black coach Steve Hansen said.
“However, I’m sure they will get their opportunity in the black jersey in the near future.”
Hansen also congratulated Whitelock on his appointment as captain for the series.
The makeup of the squad sees 17 forwards selected (two hookers, five props, three locks and seven loose forwards) and 16 backs (three scrumhalves, three first five-eighths, five midfielders and five outside backs) with an average age of 26.
The squad is made up of three Blues players, six Chiefs, eight Hurricanes, 10 Crusaders and six Highlanders, while 12 of New Zealand’s provinces are represented with seven Canterbury players, five from Taranaki, four from Wellington and Tasman, three from Manawatu, two each from Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty, and one player from Counties Manukau, Hawke’s Bay, Northland and Otago.
New Zealand squad:
Forwards: Nathan Harris, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Tim Perry, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Samuel Whitelock (captain), Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Shannon Frizell, Ardie Savea, Liam Squire, Jordan Taufua, Luke Whitelock.
Backs: Thomas Perenara, Aaron Smith, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Beauden Barrett, Damian McKenzie, Richie Mo’unga, Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Ben Smith.
Tests against France:
Saturday, June 9: Eden Park, Auckland
Saturday, June 16: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Saturday, June 23: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin