Du’Plessis Kirifi and George Bower have been included in the All Blacks squad which will travel to Australia for the Tri-Nations tournament.
Crusaders prop Bower and Hurricanes loose forward Kirifi will join the initial 36-man squad as cover.
Bower, who can cover both tighthead and loosehead, began his rugby playing for the Avalon club and worked his way through the ranks, playing for the Wellington U20 team in 2011 before moving to Dunedin to train as a teacher.
He played for Otago B and one game for the top team in 2014 as an injury replacement but it wasn’t until 2018 that he managed to get more regular games. Things moved quickly for the hard-working prop and he was then signed by the Crusaders for the 2019 season and has helped the team to two Super Rugby titles.
The 23-year-old Kirifi was called into the Hurricanes as injury cover in 2018 following an impressive debut season for Wellington in the Mitre 10 Cup the previous year. A dynamic loose forward, especially over the ball, he has continued his outstanding form for both the Hurricanes and as captain of the Wellington Lions. A former age-group representative for Taranaki and Waikato, Du’Plessis is named after former Springbok captain Morne du Plessis.
The All Blacks will be without Joe Moody, who is currently going through HIA (head injury assessment) protocols, and fellow prop Nepo Laulala and loose forward Ardie Savea, both on paternity leave.
The squad also features the inclusion of lock Mitchell Dunshea and midfielders Ngani Laumape and Peter Umaga-Jensen who have already assembled with the All Blacks as cover during the Bledisloe Cup.
The All Blacks will travel with 36 players initially to Australia on Sunday, with Savea and Laulala expected to join the squad in the following week or two.
Meanwhile, three players have been released to play Mitre 10 Cup rugby this weekend. Dunshea and loose forward Cullen Grace will be available for Canterbury’s game against Bay of Plenty in Tauranga on Saturday afternoon, with loose forward Akira Ioane available for Auckland’s match against North Harbour in Auckland on Saturday night.
The All Blacks will play two Bledisloe Cup/Tri Nations matches against Australia in Sydney on 31 October and Brisbane on 7 November, before the first game against Argentina in Sydney on 14 November. The New Zealanders will then have a bye weekend before the second Test against Argentina at McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle, on Saturday 28 November.
All Blacks travelling squad for Investec Tri Nations:
Hookers: Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles and Codie Taylor.
Props: George Bower, Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala, Tyrel Lomax, Joe Moody, Karl Tu’inukuafe, and Ofa Tuungafasi.
Locks: Scott Barrett, Mitchell Dunshea, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa’i and Samuel Whitelock.
Loose forwards: Sam Cane, Shannon Frizell, Cullen Grace, Akira Ioane, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea and Hoskins Sotutu.
Halfbacks: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith and Brad Weber.
First five-eighths: Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga.
Midfielders: Jack Goodhue, Rieko Ioane, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown and Peter Umaga-Jensen.
Outside backs: Jordie Barrett, Caleb Clarke, Will Jordan, Damian McKenzie and Sevu Reece.
Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images