Coles heads off to All Blacks training camp
Hurricanes' hooker Dane Coles is the latest young player to be ushered into the All Blacks fold after being named to attend a two-day training camp in Wellington this week.
The 25-year-old rake is the only player named who did not take part in the three-test series against Ireland last month.
His callup comes two weeks after scoring the winning try against the Chiefs, and coach Steve Hansen confirmed it was part of a continuing search for new talent.
“We already know a lot about Keven Mealamu, Andrew Hore, Corey Flynn and Hika Elliot and now it's Dane Coles' chance to come into the All Blacks environment and it gives us the opportunity to see him at closer quarters," he said.
It's a good reward for Coles, who was dynamic with the ball in hand during the Hurricanes' season and one of the hardest-working defenders in the team.
It's a continuation of a clear plan to groom successors for the established incumbents, and Coles' Super Rugby team-mate Beauden Barrett gets at least two more days to take first-hand notes from Dan Carter.
The squad named today is minus the Chiefs contingent, who are preparing for Saturday's Super Rugby final in Hamilton, but it may provide a few hints on the selectors' thinking before the Rugby Championship.
The non-inclusion of Hurricanes lock Jason Eaton or Highlanders second rower Jarrad Hoeata could be good news for Chiefs skipper Craig Clarke, who is presumably now next cab off the rank.
Injured locks Ali Williams and Luke Romano are included, as is centre Conrad Smith, but cover in the second row is likely to be needed for the first two tests against Australia.
There is no sign of midfielders Tim Bateman (Hurricanes), Ryan Crotty or Robbie Fruean (both Crusaders), adding more weight to the likely retention of Japan-bound Sonny Bill Williams.
The camp will be held on Wednesday and Thursday this week, with Hansen suggesting it will be a mix of planning and conditioning work.
“We will mainly be looking to re-establish the way we do things in the All Blacks, and it'll also give those players who haven't played much rugby recently the chance for a good hitout.”
All Blacks training squad (excluding Chiefs players)
Blues: Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Ma'a Nonu, Piri Weepu, Ali Williams and Tony Woodcock. Hurricanes: Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, Cory Jane, Julian Savea, Conrad Smith and Victor Vito. Crusaders: Dan Carter, Wyatt Crockett, Israel Dagg, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Zac Guildford, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Luke Romano and Samuel Whitelock. Highlanders: Tamati Ellison, Hosea Gear, Andrew Hore, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith and Adam Thomson.