Crusaders backs Sevu Reece and Braydon Ennor are among the four newcomers in the All Blacks’ 39-man squad for their first two Rugby Championship matches.
Reece, who has enjoyed an outstanding Vodacom Super Rugby season, scoring 15 tries in 2019, joins teammate Ennor as well as Highlanders flyhalf Josh Ioane and Chiefs flank Luke Jacobson as the uncapped players in the squad.
Sam Cane makes a return to the squad after successfully recovering from a neck injury, while there is also a place for scrumhalf Brad Weber. The experienced Sonny Bill Williams is also included.
Ryan Crotty misses out after suffering a hand injury in the Super Rugby semi-finals. Scott Barrett, Tim Perry and Damian McKenzie are also out through injury, while Liam Squire has made himself unavailable.
‘They’ve all performed to very high levels this year and played some outstanding rugby,’ All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said of the newcomers. ‘It’s a special time being named in the All Blacks for the first time and they and their families can be proud of what they’ve achieved.
‘It’s really exciting bringing the team together and we’re all looking forward to starting the work towards this year’s goals. We’re going to try and do something that’s never been done before and that’s to win three Rugby World Cups in a row. However, that’s not a given. We’re going to have to be hungry for success and we’re going to have to work incredibly hard and smart to achieve this.’
The All Blacks begin their Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina in Buenos Aires on 20 July before hosting the Springboks in Wellington a week later.
All Blacks squad
Forwards: Owen Franks, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Atu Moli, Angus Ta’avao, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Liam Coltman, Codie Taylor, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Samuel Whitelock, Jackson Hemopo, Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Shannon Frizell, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papalii, Kieran Read (c), Ardie Savea, Matt Todd.
Backs: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Josh Ioane, Richie Mo’unga, Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Braydon Ennor, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece, Ben Smith.
Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix