Fijian Sevu Reece headlines four debutants named in All Blacks squad for Rugby Championship
4 July, 2019, 6:20 am
AUCKLAND, 04 JULY 2019 (TVNZ) – Steve Hansen has named thrilling Crusaders outside backs Fijian born Sevu Reece and Braydon Ennor among four new faces in his first All Blacks squad of the year.
Reece and Ennor join Highlanders five-eighth Josh Ioane and Chiefs flanker Luke Jacobson as the uncapped players in an expanded 39-strong group for the first two Tests of the Rugby Championship.
Hansen has dropped a handful of established players, most notably winger Fijian Waisake Naholo, flanker Liam Squire and hooker Nathan Harris.
There was also no room for Ma’a Nonu, the veteran midfield back having returned to New Zealand from Toulon this year in a bid to win selection for another World Cup, having been a key member of the victorious teams in 2011 and 2015.
Hansen said Squire had made himself unavailable because of fitness concerns, while others simply missed out for form reasons.
“Whilst we know they’ve been good All Blacks in the past, people have challenged us to say ‘you’ve got to look at me’,” he said.
None of the squad’s 11 Crusaders players will face the Pumas in Buenos Aires on July 20 as they will be given extra rest after this weekend’s Super Rugby final.
It means Reece and Ennor will need to wait for a potential debut against South Africa a week later.
The pair have been among the standout attacking backs in Super Rugby, with Fiji- born Reece scorching to a competition-leading 15 tries.
The squad will be trimmed to 34 after the Test against South Africa, heading into twin clashes with the Wallabies in August.
Kieran Read is restored as captain, while cross code star Sonny Bill Williams retains a midfield spot despite an injury-plagued year which has forced him to play club rugby in recent weeks to get some miles under the belt.
Brad Weber is recalled at halfback after a strong Super Rugby campaign, usurping his Chiefs team-mate Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.
Hansen said the squad would have numbered 41 if Crusaders pair Ryan Crotty and Scott Barrett hadn’t suffered hand injuries which will sideline them both for at least six weeks.
Backs: Ben Smith, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Ngani Laumape, Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, Josh Ioane, Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Brad Weber.
Forwards: Kieran Read (capt), Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Matt Todd, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papali’i, Shannon Frizell, Vaea Fifita, Jackson Hemopo, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Owen Franks, Nepo Laulala, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Angus Ta’avao, Joe Moody, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Atu Moli, Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Liam Coltman, Asafo Aumua.