All Blacks squad named for 2018 Steinlager Series
A mixture of world-class experience and exciting younger talent are the features of the All Blacks squad named by selectors Steve Hansen, Ian Foster and Grant Fox for the three-Test Steinlager Series against France.
The key feature in the Steinlager Series squad is the selection of three new All Blacks: Highlanders and Tasman loose forward Shannon Frizell, Crusaders and Tasman loose forward Jordan Taufua and Chiefs and Taranaki halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.
Also selected are Crusaders teammates Tim Perry, Richie Mo’unga and Jack Goodhue, who played non-Test matches on last year’s Vista Northern Tour and are yet to make their Test debuts.
Making a welcome return to the All Blacks are 95-Test cap prop Owen Franks and Hurricanes outside back Nehe Milner-Skudder, both of who missed the back half of last year’s All Blacks season because of injury.
As well as the 33-man squad, two other players will assemble with the squad.
Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman, will come in as paternity cover for Nathan Harris, whose partner is expecting a baby during the Steinlager Series; while Blues loose forward Akira Ioane will assemble as well, with the All Blacks selectors wanting to take the opportunity to continue his development at international level.
Sam Whitelock chosen Leader
With Kieran Read injured, the All Blacks selectors have named 96-Test lock Sam Whitelock as Captain for the Steinlager Series, with fullback Ben Smith and loose forward Sam Cane named as Vice-Captains. Whitelock has captained the team once before, against Wales in the last Test of 2017.
As well as Read, other players not considered for selection due to injury were Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Kane Hames, Nepo Laulala, Atu Moli, Patrick Tuipulotu and Israel Dagg.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “Firstly, on behalf of the selectors, All Blacks management and New Zealand Rugby, I would like to congratulate all those players selected for the Steinlager Series, especially the three new All Blacks. It is always a very special time being selected for the All Blacks for the first time and the players and their families can be justifiably proud of all the hard work they have done to reach this point,” he said.
Mr Hansen said that it was a tough squad to select, more so because there are some very talented players who have missed out but would their opportunity in the near future.
Mr Hansen also congratulated Whitelock on his appointment as Captain for the Series.
“He is one of the best locking combinations in the world and one of the best players on and off the park. He has a cool head under pressure and the support of the players and management. We are also blessed with a number of other leaders in our group and the expectations are that they will continue to lead both on and off the park in their actions, and in doing so make Sam’s job that little bit easier,” he said.
Year of consolidation
In setting the scene for the All Blacks season, Mr Hansen said that 2018 will be a ‘Year of Consolidation’ for the All Blacks.
“We will continue to grow our player depth and expose more players to our environment and Test Rugby, help them improve and enhance their game fundamentals, and in doing so, create consistent, ingrained habits that will hold up under the greatest of pressures, which is Test Rugby,” he said.
Hansen described the French as ‘always a dangerous side.’
“Whilst they are at the end of their season, many of their players have not played a lot of Rugby through injury, so they will be a lot fresher than they would normally be for this campaign. Our preparation should be both smart and bone-deep if we are to combat this French team, who will come with a strong belief and commitment. As history tells us, we would be very foolish to underestimate their abilities.”
The Squad details
The makeup of the Steinlager Series squad sees 17 forwards selected (two hookers, five props, three locks and seven loose forwards) and 16 backs (three halfbacks, three first five-eighths, five midfielders and five outside backs) with an average age of 26.
The squad is made up of three Blues players, six Chiefs, eight Hurricanes, 10 Crusaders and six Highlanders, while 12 of New Zealand’s provinces are represented with seven Canterbury players, five from Taranaki, four from Wellington and Tasman, three from Manawatu, two each from Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty, and one player from Counties Manukau, Hawke’s Bay, Northland and Otago.
The All Blacks squad will assemble in Auckland until May 23, 2018 and in Christchurch from May 27 to May 29, 2018. They will meet again in Auckland on June 3, 2018 to prepare for the First Test.
About Shannon Frizell
Shannon Frizell is blessed with dynamic Rugby skills, which were on display this year when he scored three tries in the Highlanders win over the Blues in Round Ten of the Investec Super Rugby Season. Standing tall at 195 cms, the 24-year-old Tongan-born loose forward moved to Nelson after signing a development contract with the Tasman Rugby Union in 2015. He represented New Zealand Marist at Under 19 level and also played for the Tasman Sevens team. He made his provincial debut for Tasman in 2016 playing in all matches, and after a blockbuster 2017 Mako season earned a Super Rugby contract with the Highlanders.
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
Outstanding, young Rotorua-born halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi played Club Rugby in New Plymouth in 2014-15 and consistently impressive performances saw him selected for the New Zealand U20s in 2015, where they won the World Rugby Junior World Championship. Later that year, he was selected as a part of a strong New Zealand Barbarians team that won 34-17 against the Maori All Blacks. A member of the Ngati Pikiao iwi, Tahuriorangi debuted for the Maori All Blacks in 2017 against the British and Irish Lions. The 23 year-old made his Investec Super Rugby debut for the Hurricanes in 2016 and made ten appearances before moving to the Chiefs in 2018.
Jordan Taufua has continued to make his mark as an outstanding loose forward with the Crusaders so far in 2018. Born in Auckland, 26-year-old Taufua moved to Christchurch where he attended Lincoln University and played Local Club Rugby. He debuted for Tasman in 2012 on loan from Canterbury before re-joining Canterbury for their ITM Cup Premiership success in 2013. He then moved back north for the 2014 season with Counties Manukau, starting every game in his first season with the Pukekohe-based side, before returning to Tasman for the 2017 season. A dual international at U20 level, Taufua played for Samoa at the 2011 Junior World Championship before returning to New Zealand in 2012.
All Blacks-France Rivalry
The All Blacks and France rivalry goes back to 1906. They have played 58 times, with the All Blacks winning 45 times and the French 12. The most recent Test match was the 38-18 win to the All Blacks in Paris on last year’s Vista Northern Tour. France have visited New Zealand 12 times (excluding Rugby World Cup series), with their last tour in 2013.
Steinlager Series Tests against France
- Saturday June 9, 2018: 735 pm, Eden Park, Auckland
2. Saturday, June 16, 2018: 735 pm, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
3. Saturday June 23, 2018: 735 pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Tickets to the Steinlager Series Tests are still available from www.allblacks.com/tickets
|The All Blacks Squad (with age, Super Rugby club, province and Test caps):
Forwards: Hookers: Nathan Harris (26, Chiefs/Bay of Plenty, 11); Codie Taylor (27, Crusaders/Canterbury, 29); Props: Owen Franks (30, Crusaders/Canterbury, 95); Joe Moody (29, Crusaders/Canterbury, 31); Tim Perry (29, Crusaders/Tasman, uncapped); Jeffery Toomaga-Allen (27, Hurricanes/Wellington, 1); Ofa Tuungafasi (26, Blues/Auckland, 14); Locks: Scott Barrett (24, Crusaders/Taranaki, 16); Brodie Retallick (26, Chiefs/Hawke’s Bay, 68); Samuel Whitelock (29, Crusaders/Canterbury, 96) Captain; Loose Forwards: Sam Cane (26, Chiefs/Bay of Plenty, 53) Vice-Captain; Vaea Fifita (25, Hurricanes/Wellington, 5); Shannon Frizell (24, Highlanders/Tasman, uncapped); Ardie Savea (24, Hurricanes/ Wellington, 22); Liam Squire (27, Highlanders/Tasman, 15); Jordan Taufua (26, Crusaders/ Tasman, uncapped); Luke Whitelock (27, Highlanders/Canterbury, 2); Backs: Halfbacks: TJ Perenara (26, Hurricanes/Wellington, 42); Aaron Smith (29, Highlanders /Manawatu, 71); Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (23, Chiefs/Taranaki, uncapped); First Five-Eighths: Beauden Barrett (27, Hurricanes/Taranaki, 62); Damian McKenzie (23, Chiefs /Waikato, 12); Richie Mo’unga (24, Crusaders/Canterbury, uncapped); Midfielders: Ryan Crotty (29, Crusaders/Canterbury, 32); Jack Goodhue (22, Crusaders/Northland, uncapped); Ngani Laumape (25, Hurricanes /Manawatu, 4); Anton Lienert-Brown (23, Chiefs/Waikato, 22); Sonny Bill Williams (32, Blues /Counties Manukau, 46); Outside Backs: Jordie Barrett (21, Hurricanes /Taranaki, 2), Rieko Ioane (21, Blues/Auckland, 13); Nehe Milner-Skudder (27, Hurricanes/Manawatu, 11); Waisake Naholo (27, Highlanders /Taranaki, 18); Ben Smith (30, Highlanders /Otago, 64) – Vice-Captain
Sam Whitelock in 2016. Photo: Photosport (through RNZ under Special Arrangement)