Steve Hansen has announced his 39-man squad for the opening two games of this year’s shortened Rugby Championship and there are four new caps in it.
Along with those four there could be two new test capped players in Hurricanes hooker Asafo Aumua and Chiefs prop Atu Moli, who have both only played in non-test matches for the All Blacks.
Head coach Hansen took the time to congratulate the newcomers and the players who have been called up once more into the national side.
“On behalf of the selectors, we want to congratulate the four new All Blacks named today – Luke, Josh, Braydon and Sevu. They’ve all performed to very high levels this year and played some outstanding rugby. 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,” he said.
The key names missing from the squad are Waisake Naholo, Liam Squire (excluded himself from selection), Nathan Harris, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi and Akira Ioane.
While Scott Barrett, Ryan Crotty, Tim Perry and Damien McKenzie are all absent through injury.
On the other hand, Chiefs halfback Brad Weber has received his first call up to the national side for four years following an impressive campaign.
Hansen is excited to have all the players together and at the possibility to claim a third Rugby World Cup in a row come the end of the year.
“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. 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,” he added.
The coach, who is set to step down from his post come the conclusion of the Rugby World Cup is also happy to have the opportunity to name a larger squad and be able to pick from a bigger pool of players.
“First and foremost, it allows us to pick a very strong squad for what will be a challenging first Test against Argentina in Buenos Aires, while at the same time giving most of the Crusaders players in the All Blacks a rest from what has been a very tough Super Rugby Finals campaign. For the new players, it allows us to meet them for the first time, introduce them to our environment and grow their understanding of their game and our game at international level,” he continued.
Hansen has his sights set on creating winning and attractive rugby during the first two games before having to narrow his squad down to 34-players for the side’s clash with Australia.
“The challenge and the aim of the first two matches is not only to play winning rugby but attractive, exciting rugby. To do this, we’ll have to quickly reconnect the players from the various Super Rugby clubs back into the All Blacks’ ways. We will need to master our game by improving our execution. To do this, our skillsets and decision making will be our key focus. Being a Rugby World Cup year, there’s a lot of excitement and anticipation from our many fans not only in New Zealand but also overseas. The squad is really looking forward to our fans’ support at all our Tests this year,” he finished.
Kieran Read will captain the team once more throughout their campaign as they hope to add yet another Rugby Championship title to their cabinet before setting off to Japan in search of another piece of history.
Check Out the Full 39-Man Squad Below.
Asafo Aumua (22, Hurricanes / Wellington, uncapped)
Beauden Barrett (32, Hurricanes / Wellington, 60)
Jordie Barrett (22, Hurricanes / Taranaki, 9)
GeorgeBridge (24, Crusaders / Canterbury, 1)
Sam Cane (27, Chiefs / Bay of Plenty, 60)
Dane Coles (32, Hurricanes / Wellington, 60)
Liam Coltman (29, Highlanders / Otago, 4)
Braydon Ennor (21, Crusaders / Canterbury, new cap)
Vaea Fifita (30, Crusaders / Canterbury, 108)
Owen Franks (31, Crusaders / Canterbury, 106)
Shannon Frizell (25, Highlanders / Tasman, 4)
Jack Goodhue (24, Crusaders / Northland, 7)
Jackson Hemopo (25, Highlanders / Manawatu, 3)
Josh Ioane (23, Highlanders / Otago, new cap)
Rieko Ioane (22, Blues / Auckland, 24)
Luke Jacobson (22, Chiefs / Waikato, new cap)
Nepo Laulala (27, Chiefs / Counties Manukau, 17)
Ngani Laumape (26, Hurricanes / Manawatu, 10)
Anton Lienert-Brown (24, Chiefs / Waikato, 33)
Atu Moli (24, Chiefs / Tasman, uncapped)
Joe Moody (30, Crusaders /Canterbury, 37)
Richie Mo’unga (25, Crusaders / Canterbury, 9)
Dalton Papali’i (21, Blues / Auckland, 2)
TJ Perenara (27, Hurricanes / Wellington, 55)
Kieran Read (c) (33, Crusaders / Counties Manukau, 118)
Sevu Reece (22, Crusaders / Waikato, new cap)
Brodie Retallick (28, Chiefs / Hawke’s Bay, 75)
Ardie Savea (25, Hurricanes / Wellington, 35)
Aaron Smith (30, Highlanders / Manawatu, 82)
Ben Smith (33, Highlanders /Otago, 76)
Angus Ta’avao (29, Chiefs / Taranaki, 3)
Codie Taylor (28, Crusaders / Canterbury, 41)
Matt Todd (31, Crusaders / Canterbury, 17)
Karl Tu’inukuafe (26, Blues / North Harbour, 13)
Patrick Tuipulotu (26, Blues / Auckland, 21)
Ofa Tu’ungafasi (27, Blues / Auckland, 26)
Brad Weber (28, Chiefs / Hawke’s Bay, 1)
Sam Whitelock (30, Crusaders / Canterbury, 108)
Sonny Bill Williams (33, Blues / Counties Manukau, 51)
Not considered for selection due to injury: Ryan Crotty, Scott Barrett, Tim Perry and Damian McKenzie.
Unavailable for selection: Liam Squire has also made himself unavailable as he felt he wasn’t ready to return to international rugby at this stage.
Star Player Commits to Australian Rugby
One of the Wallabies key men has put pen to paper on a new deal with Australian Rugby ahead of the Rugby World Cup
The 23-year-old’s new deal will see him stay in the country for another four-years, meaning he will be available for selection come the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Rodda is delighted to have been able to confirm the news ahead of the start of the Rugby World Cup in Japan which starts on Friday.
“It’s good to confirm and announce this before the World Cup starts this week, so I can shift my focus on the Wallabies, but definitely excited and honoured to re-sign with Australian Rugby and the Reds for another four years,” he said.
The news is a boost to the Wallabies as Rodda only has 21 caps for them to his name which falls well below the 60 required to represent the country if a player moves overseas to play.
That rule has already confirmed that the likes of Samu Kerevi, Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold will all be out of Wallabies contention come the conclusion of the World Cup as they head overseas with less than 30 caps each.
As well as those players there are a number of high-profile experienced Wallabies leaving the country come the end of the tournament, so this will be a real boost to fans of the green and gold.
The Wallabies kick start their World Cup campaign against Fiji on Saturday, in what is a must win game as they also face current Six Nations Grand Slam winners Wales in the same pool in which only two can progress to the quarter-finals.
Scottish Star Forced Into Early Retirement
One of Scotland’s finest players has been forced to retire from the game due to concussion
The 29-year-old was advised to quit the sport on medical grounds following a concussion which he picked up almost a year ago while playing for the Premiership outfit.
However, Denton has admitted that he was actually relieved when he found out the news as it was a long time coming.
“My actual reaction at the time my neurologist told me it was no longer a good idea to play rugby… to be honest there was a bit of relief. This had been building up inside of me for four to five months. I knew there was a strong possibility that this moment (when I had to retire) was coming. By the time I got to it, I had been through all the emotional highs and lows, so I was prepared for it,” he said.
Although it was a relief Denton also confirmed that it is a blow as he felt like he was getting back to his best and thanked everyone that has helped him along his journey.
“Of course, it is devastating that my rugby career is ending. After a few years where I had a series of injuries, I had got myself back into a position where I felt, physically and mentally, that I could play the best rugby of my career. I’m incredibly fortunate. Scottish Rugby have helped me, particularly over the last few months. They have been awesome. I’ve spent a lot of time with (Scottish Rugby ambassador) Al Kellock, (chairman) Colin Grassie and (chief operating officer) Dominic McKay and they have helped me hugely, thinking about the transition from being a player to what happens next,” he added.
He also already has plans for the future and unlike many who leave the playing field, he does not want a position back in rugby as he would like to head into corporate business.
“The people they have put me in front of (from commerce and industry) has been great. I want to get into the corporate world. Coaching, as a career, was never something that appealed to me. I’m really excited for the next steps in my life,” he finished.
“We’re really disappointed that someone who still had a lot to offer the game both at club level and for Scotland hasn’t been able to do that, but our first thoughts are with his health and his life beyond rugby and it seems to be the right decision to retire. We were hoping that taking some time out of the game would mean he would be available for selection in our world cup training squad and when that didn’t happen we were hopeful he’d be back for next season, but again that’s not happened. We’re going to miss him with Scotland. He played very well last summer after being involved in the Six Nations, playing really well in that game against Argentina, and getting back to the form he was in at the last world cup. As coaches we really enjoyed working with Dave over the years and we wish him all the best in life after rugby,” he said.
Denton leaves the game with a total of 42 international caps to his name and will be fondly remembered for several explosive games in a Scottish jersey.
Williams and Priestland Defend Biggar
Wales fly-half Dan Biggar has come in for a lot of scrutiny of late but now some of the people that know him best have come to his defence
Wales out-half Dan Biggar has been criticised of late by many fans, but fellow Welshmen JJ Williams and Rhys Priestland have come out to stand up for him while talking to RugbyPass.
Williams, who is Biggar’s current coach at Northampton Saints, believes that Biggar is not only deserving of the Wales No 10 jersey but that he is the best player in the world when it comes to knock-out rugby.
“If you need someone to stay on task, to make sure that they keep their nerve to run a game down, or close a game out in knockout rugby, there is no better player in the world. He’s mentally as tough as hell. I have often said I’d hate to see an argument between him and TJ Perenara. They are two of the most bloody-minded people I’ve ever worked with. If you want to go into battle with anyone, it’s Dan Biggar. He’s an absolute trooper,” he said.
Williams has previously coached the Super Rugby side the Hurricanes, where he worked with Beauden Barrett so the praise will come as a huge boost for Biggar.
Biggar has become Wales’ first-choice fly-half following Gareth Anscombe’s ACL injury in a World Cup warm-up game against England last month and Williams was impressed by how he dealt with being thrown into that match.
“The response he put in against England, after he had criticism, well I thought it was superb. That summed up, in a nutshell, what Dan Biggar can do and who he is as a bloke,” he added.
As well as Williams coming to Biggar’s defence, fellow Welsh No 10 Priestland is full of praise for the Northampton Saint and can’t understand the criticism.
“Look, Dan’s a great competitor, a fantastic kicker and unbelievable under the high ball. I probably see more of him playing for Wales now and whenever he has come on for Anscombe he has had a positive impact. I got better coming across the bridge (to play in the Premiership) and I’m sure he’s the same. It’s a weird one. When Anscombe was playing, there were people asking for him to start, and now Dan is starting they are asking for someone else,” he said.
Whatever people believe it is clear that Biggar’s peers hold him in high regard and believe he could be a vital part to any Welsh success.
Biggar and co have had a frustrating time during their warm-up games with three losses from four games, but will look to turn a corner over the next couple of weeks as they prepare for their opening World Cup match against Georgia on Monday September 23rd.
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