There is a mix of established and new players within the 33 man All Blacks squad announced for the June Test series; versus France.
Sam Whitleock has been selected as the captain of the New Zealand team, due to injury to Kieran Read. He will have able vice captains, in Sam Cane and Ben Smith.
Beside the established players, three new names were called out by New Zealand Rugby (NZR) chairman Brent Impey. Shannon Frizell [Highlanders/Tasman], Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi [Chiefs/Taranaki] and Jordan Taufua [Crusaders/Tasman].
Those men will play their part, alongside the senior players and recent All Blacks squad members. They face a challenge in France. A three test series, against a side who have had tremendous success on New Zealand soil.
Steinlager Series tests against France (all times NZT)
1. vs. FRANCE. Saturday 9 June, 7.35PM, Eden Park, AUCKLAND
2. vs. FRANCE. Saturday 16 June, 7.35PM, Westpac Stadium, WELLINGTON
3. vs. FRANCE. Saturday 23 June, 7.35PM, Forsyth-Barr Stadium, DUNEDIN
Introducing the first #AllBlacks squad of 2018…
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) May 19, 2018
France will bring a rich history, and historic relationship with them. The All Blacks v France rivalry which extends back to 1906. Playing each other 58 times, with the All Blacks winning 45 times and the French 12. France have visited New Zealand 12 times (excluding RWCs), with the last tour in 2013.
“They’ve often come over here, and people have written them off. But historically they have knocked off the All Blacks more than we have like,” said assistant coach Ian Foster.
“That fact alone guarantees that we are very motivated.”
June test series All Blacks squad announced
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 will be supported by two additional players; Akira Ioane and Liam Coltman. They are included in the assembled group, but will sit outside of selection – available to cover for injury; and in the case of Nathan Harris, paternity leave.
The All Blacks squad will assemble in Auckland until Tuesday and in Christchurch from Sunday 27 May – Tuesday 29 May, before the final test series squad assembles in Auckland, on Sunday 3 June to prepare for the first Test.
Head coach Steve Hansen said in a media release, “Firstly, on behalf of the selectors, I’d like to congratulate all those players selected for the Steinlager Series, especially the three new All Blacks. It’s 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.”
While the All Blacks squad has been chosen to achieve many objectives, the composition is always a tough one to come to agreement on. Hansen declared “it was a really tough squad to select, more so because there are some very talented players who have missed out, but I’m sure they will get their opportunity in the black jersey in the near future.”
All Blacks bolter – Shannon Frizell
It is not often that a real bolter is called out on the day of a squad announcement. But in Shannon Frizell, the All Blacks have been bold. Recognizing a figure that could capture a dynamic role within the team – he is chosen more for the future, in a plan to ensure the team have positive go forward ball.
From the All Blacks media release, Shannon Frizell is described as being ‘blessed with dynamic rugby skills’. Standing tall at 195cm, the 24-year-old Tongan-born loose forward signed a development contract with the Tasman Rugby Union in 2015. After a blockbuster 2017 Mako season, Frizell earned a Super Rugby contract with the Highlanders.
Vice-captain Sam Cane spoke of his admiration of Frizell, and new All Black Jordan Taufua. “It’s awesome to see them get selected. Watching them play this year, they are explosive athletes. Looking forward to seeing what they can do in here,” was his endorsement to SkySports.
All Blacks recognition for Jordan Taufua
Jordan Taufua has continued to make his mark as an outstanding loose forward with the Crusaders. He debuted for Tasman in 2012, before rejoining Canterbury for their ITM Cup Premiership success in 2013. A dual international at U20 level, Taufua played for Samoa at the 2011 Junior World Championship before returning to New Zealand in 2012.
He now takes a step-up for higher honours that many have been calling for. The recognition by the All Blacks selectors underlines the versatility he has – playing in numbers 6, 7, and 8 – plus the ability to go from zero, to test status [presumably] in a seamless transition.
His selection comes at the expense of Matt Todd, who suffered from the need to experiment at number eight; and selecting just two blindside flankers. Steve Hansen commented “Matty Todd is real unlucky. We are looking to grow a number of other players, who can play six and eight for us. Jordan and Shannon are what we would call ‘assertive players’ got plenty of energy, and intention with that energy.”
Talent on the rise; Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
Outstanding, young Rotorua-born halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi has previously been selected for the New Zealand U20s in 2015, where they won the World Rugby Junior World Championship. Later he went on to debut for the Maori All Blacks in 2017 against the British and Irish Lions. The 23 year old made his Super Rugby debut for the Hurricanes in 2016, before moving to the Chiefs in 2018 where he is seen as a talent on the rise.
Grant Fox told SkySport “Te toiroa has impressed us. The core role of a halfback is clearance. And he is really good off both wings. He’s quick, has a beautifully weighted pass, get’s to rucks quickly, kicks the ball well.
“He’s a good little package there – very much like Graeme Bachop.
The new players now join with some in-experienced players; like Tim Perry, Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape, Luke Whitelock, Vaea Fifita, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, who have all played less than 10 tests. Richie Mo’unga and Jack Goodhew (who played in one All Blacks game) will also be developing players, to fit into the backline structure.
“Some players may not play any games, but the fact is they have spent three weeks in the All Blacks [camp]. And that’s a learning experience in itself.”
The French team will meet the All Blacks on June 9 at Eden Park, in the first test.
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