New Zealand boss Steve Hansen summoned four uncapped players but found no room for veteran Ma’a Nonu as he named his squad to face Argentina and South Africa.
Nonu, 37, agreed to return to New Zealand with the Blues in September 2018 after three years with French club Toulon, and swiftly made it clear he wanted to reclaim an All Blacks berth.
But with time running out until the World Cup this autumn, the centre, who played in both the 2011 and 2015 all-conquering teams, appears likely to miss out on the 2019 tournament.
Hansen issued first calls to Chiefs loose forward Luke Jacobson, Highlanders fly-half Josh Ioane, versatile Crusaders back Braydon Ennor and Crusaders winger Sevu Reece.
“They’ve all performed to very high levels this year and played some outstanding rugby,” Hansen said.
“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. We also congratulate the returning All Blacks and commiserate with those players who haven’t been named. As always, history has shown us opportunities will arise.
“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.
“There’s been some guys putting their hands up for selection and they’ve been rewarded” – Steve Hansen pic.twitter.com/20EndU25L1
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) July 2, 2019
“Whilst recapturing the Rugby World Cup and the Bledisloe Cup are two of the end goals for the year, we have to deal with the here and now, which is getting ready to face two quality oppositions in Argentina and South Africa.”
New Zealand’s opener in the Rugby Championship sees them play Argentina in Buenos Aires on July 20. They tackle South Africa seven days later in Wellington before facing Australia twice in August, by which time Hansen will recalibrate his squad, cutting it from 39 players to 34, which must come down to 31 for the World Cup.
Injury absentees include Ryan Crotty, Scott Barrett, Tim Perry and Damian McKenzie, with New Zealand stating Highlanders back-rower Liam Squire had made himself unavailable after a recent injury lay-off.
All Blacks squad:
Forwards: Asafo Aumua (Hurricanes), Dane Coles (Hurricanes), Liam Coltman (Highlanders), Codie Taylor (Crusaders), Owen Franks (Crusaders), Nepo Laulala (Chiefs), Joe Moody (Crusaders), Atu Moli (Chiefs), Angus Ta’avao (Chiefs), Karl Tu’inukuafe (Blues), Ofa Tuungafasi (Blues), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues), Samuel Whitelock (Crusaders), Jackson Hemopo (Highlanders), Sam Cane (Chiefs), Vaea Fifita (Hurricanes), Shannon Frizell (Highlanders), Luke Jacobson (Chiefs), Dalton Papalii (Blues), Kieran Read (Crusaders, captain), Ardie Savea (Hurricanes), Matt Todd (Crusaders)
Backs: TJ Perenara (Hurricanes), Aaron Smith (Highlanders), Brad Weber (Chiefs), Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes), Josh Ioane (Highlanders), Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders), Jack Goodhue (Crusaders), Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes), Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs), Sonny Bill Williams (Blues), Braydon Ennor (Crusaders), Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes), George Bridge (Crusaders), Rieko Ioane (Blues), Sevu Reece (Crusaders), Ben Smith (Highlanders)
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