Steve Hansen selects experienced New Zealand squad for Rugby Championship
Last Updated: 07/08/18 5:48pm
Steve Hansen has named an experienced 33-man New Zealand squad ahead of the Rugby Championship which includes just two uncapped players.
Prop Tim Perry, who played two non-Tests last year, and scrum-half Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi are the two new entrants that line-up alongside a host of familiar faces.
Captain and No 8 Kieran Read returns having missed the June Test series against France due to injury and lock Brodie Retallick is back in the international mix after 11 months away from Test rugby.
New Zealand have their sights set on a sixth Rugby Championship title in seven years and, upon announcing his 33, Hansen noted the challenges that they faced in whittling it down.
"The selectors found this an incredibly difficult squad to select, and whilst we congratulate those who've been named in the Rugby Championship team, we also commiserate with those who've missed out," the head coach said.
There is not room in the squad for the Crusaders trio of George Bridge, Bryn Hall or Matt Todd while Hurricanes prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen and loose forward Vaea Fifita also miss out.
"It has to be noted that there are some very good players who have not made the squad," Hansen added.
"However, as we've seen in previous campaigns, a number of these players will get an opportunity through injury, just like Liam [Coltman] and Ngani [Laumape] already."
Coltman and Laumape are included as injury cover for Dane Coles and Sonny Bill Williams respectively.
Williams missed the first two Tests against France with a knee injury and hasn't played since damaging a shoulder joint in the third Test.
Hooper fit for All Blacks clash
Australia captain Michael Hooper is confident he will be fit for Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship opener against NZ.
Coles, who missed much of 2017 due to concussion-related issues, ruptured knee ligaments against Les Bleus last November and has since undergone two operations to repair the injury.
He will continue his rehabilitation with Wellington in the Mitre 10 Cup and is likely to return to the selection mix when he has regained his match fitness.
"Whilst last year was about growing depth, and we'll need to continue to do that in some positions, this year is more about growing our game and our player combinations within that," added the All Blacks head coach.
"By the end of the year, we should have a clearer picture of who, and what, will be needed for next year's Rugby World Cup campaign."
The world leaders start this season's Rugby Championship with a Bledisloe Cup encounter against Australia, live on Sky Sports Action.
The squad assemble together in Christchurch on Thursday before taking on the Canterbury and Otago provincial sides in the Game of Three Halves match at AMI Stadium on Friday night.
A final group of 32 will then travel to Sydney on Sunday and will prepare for the first match of the competition that takes place on August 18 at the ANZ Stadium.
New Zealand's 33-man squad
Forwards: Dane Coles (replacement: Liam Coltman), Nathan Harris, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Tim Perry, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, Shannon Frizell, Jackson Hemopo, Kieran Read (c), Ardie Savea, Liam Squire, Luke Whitelock.
Backs: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Beauden Barrett, Damian McKenzie, Richie Mo'unga, Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams (replacement: Ngani Laumape), Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Ben Smith.