All Blacks head coach Ian Foster has named a 36-man squad with four new caps and a new captain for the upcoming Test series against Fiji and Tonga.
Crusaders lock Sam Whitelock will take over the captaincy of the team, with Sam Cane to miss the series as the loose forward continues to recover from chest surgery.
As with Cane, several other injured All Blacks weren’t considered for selection, including props Ofa Tuungafasi and Joe Moody and midfielder Jack Goodhue. Highlanders halfback Folau Fakatava was also not considered for selection due to injury.
‘He’s hugely experienced, not just as a player but also as a leader, and he has great connections with Sam Cane and the leaders in the team as well. Our current leadership group is working hard together and we know Sam will lead the team superbly in the series,’ Foster said on Whitelock.
The key feature of the squad is the selection of four new All Blacks, in young Highlanders and Southland prop Ethan de Groot, Crusaders and Tasman loose forward Ethan Blackadder, Blues and Tasman halfback Finlay Christie and young Chiefs and Waikato player Quinn Tupaa.
Also returning to the squad are 2019 All Blacks loose forward Luke Jacobson and prop Angus Ta’avao. Midfielders David Havili, who last played for the national side in 2017, and Braydon Ennor are also back, along with senior All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick, who recently returned from a playing stint in Japan.
‘On behalf of the selectors, I want to congratulate all players selected for this series squad, especially, the new All Blacks, Ethan de Groot and Ethan Blackadder, and Finlay and Quinn. It’s an incredibly special day for them and their families and we look forward to catching up with them when we get into camp this week,’ Foster said.
The team will assemble for a three-day camp in South Auckland later this week before heading into the Tongan Test week.
Steinlager Series Squad 👀 pic.twitter.com/izO1Vl5yqP
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) June 21, 2021
1. All Blacks vs Tonga – Saturday, 3 July, plus Māori All Blacks vs Manu Samoa, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
2. All Blacks vs Fiji – Saturday, 10 July, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
3. All Blacks vs Fiji – Saturday, 17 July, plus Tonga vs Samoa, FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton.
Photo: Getty Images