The new All Blacks squad won't have to wait long before getting into action as a game has been arranged against Auckland and Counties Manukau on Friday night.
The 28-man All Blacks squad for the inaugural Rugby Championship was named in Auckland today with Charlie Faumuina being the only uncapped player selected, while there was a recall for Cory Jane.
Dropping out of the squad are Zac Guildford, Ben Tameifuna, Beauden Barrett and the injured Ali Williams, while Sonny Bill Williams will officially be added to the squad in the next few days as an injury replacement for Conrad Smith once the paperwork between the NZRU and his Japanese club, Panasonic, has been sorted out.
The Chiefs players in the squad will be given an easy week this week, but the rest will take to the field on Friday night in Pukekohe and will play 20 minutes against Counties Manukau and then 20 minutes against Auckland.
After this, Auckland and the Steelers will play each other for 40 minutes.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said it was important for those players whose Super Rugby franchises completed their seasons a while ago, got some game time.
"They were scheduled to play each other and we're very thankful that they've given us 40 minutes of their time," Hansen said of Counties and Auckland.
"There are some guys that haven't played for six weeks and that's not a great preparation going into a test match.
"So we need to provide an environment where they can get some rugby and get rid of some of the cobwebs."
Hansen said the Chiefs players in the squad would be given time and space to celebrate their magnificent season and won't play on Friday.
"We'll have to be smart about what they do when they come into camp," he said.
"There is no need for them to have the game.
"They'll celebrate for a couple of days I'd imagine, so we'll have to get them over that as well, but they deserve the right to celebrate the moment."
The All Blacks will assemble in Auckland later in the week and Hansen said there will be an emphasis on how much the team could improve on their 3-0 series victory over Ireland in June.
"Clearly we've got some big challenges," he said.
"We're now going into the Rugby Championship, which involves South Africa, Australia and Argentina and two of those sides are ranked two and three in the world and then we've got Argentina, currently being coached by our own Graham Henry, so they're going to be on the job as well.
"It is going to involve a lot of travel, something new for us. So as a group we're very excited and upbeat about what we're going into, because it's going to let us know about exactly where sit as a team.
"The other challenge is in our own hands and that's about how we get better.
"It's not so much about the opponents, but how we as individuals and collectively as a group get better and raise the bar to the level we want to be at.
"So that's where we're sitting at the moment, we're looking forward to getting there on Thursday, getting the commercial stuff done and start training on Friday.
"We'll be based in Auckland until Thursday and will head over to Sydney on [the following] Thursday."
The squad is: (with province and Test caps. * denotes a new cap)
Hookers: Andrew Hore - Taranaki (65), Keven Mealamu - Auckland (93)
Props: Wyatt Crockett - Canterbury (6), Charlie Faumuina - Auckland*, Ben Franks - Canterbury (18), Owen Franks - Canterbury (34), Tony Woodcock - North Harbour (86)
Locks: Brodie Retallick - Bay of Plenty (3), Luke Romano - Canterbury (1), Samuel Whitelock - Canterbury (28)
Loose forwards: Sam Cane - Bay of Plenty (2), Richie McCaw (C) - Canterbury (106), Liam Messam - Waikato (10), Kieran Read - Canterbury (38), Adam Thomson - Otago (27), Victor Vito - Wellington (14)
Halfbacks: Aaron Smith - Manawatu (3), Piri Weepu - Auckland (59)
First five-eighths: Daniel Carter - Canterbury (87), Aaron Cruden - Manawatu (11)
Midfielders: Tamati Ellison - Otago (2), Ma'a Nonu - Wellington (66), Conrad Smith - Wellington (58)
Outside backs: Israel Dagg - Hawke's Bay (15), Hosea Gear - Wellington (9), Cory Jane - Wellington (31), Ben Smith - Otago (5), Julian Savea - Wellington (2)
- © Fairfax NZ News
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