- Five uncapped players in 35-man party
- Hansen will trim squad to 31 for England series
Photo: Getty Images
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has named a 35-man training squad for the three-Test series against England this June.
There are five uncapped players in the party, centre Malakai Fekitoa and hooker Liam Coltman from the Highlanders, Blues lock Patrick Tuipulotu, Hurricanes scrum half TJ Perenara and Chiefs hooker Nathan Harris.
Each of those men has enjoyed an impressive start to the Super 15 campaign, none more so than Fekitoa, whose powerful running and aggressive defence has clearly caught Hansen’s eye.
Another notable inclusion is Jerome Kaino, a cornerstone of the All Blacks’ 2011 Rugby World Cup triumph, who is back at the Blues after a stint in Japan.
Although Dan Carter remains on sabbatical, the presence of centurions Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and Richie McCaw means there is vast experience to go with those burgeoning youngsters.
The group will attend two training camps, one in Christchurch from Sunday, May 18 to Tuesday, May 20, and another in Wellington between Sunday, May 25 and Tuesday, May 27.
Hansen explained that preparation time together as a group would be crucial ahead of England’s tour.
“With players coming from five different Super Rugby teams, it’s important that we get aligned on our game plans and skill sets,” he said.
“The challenge the English bring means we will need to at our very best as quickly as possible.”
England play the All Blacks at Eden Park, Auckland, on Saturday June 7 before further Tests at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin (June 14) and Waikato Stadium in Hamilton (June 21).
Before that, on June 1, Hansen will trim his squad to 31.
New Zealand training squad
Hookers: Keven Mealamu (Blues), Nathan Harris (Chiefs), Dane Coles (Hurricanes), Liam Coltman (Highlanders)
Props: Charlie Faumuina and Tony Woodcock (Blues), Ben Franks (Hurricanes), Wyatt Crockett and Owen Franks (Crusaders)
Locks: Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), Jeremy Thrush* (Hurricanes), Dominic Bird and Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)
Back-rowers: Jerome Kaino and Steven Luatua (Blues), Sam Cane and Liam Messam (Chiefs), Victor Vito (Hurricanes), Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Luke Whitelock* (Crusaders)
Scrum halves: Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Chiefs), Aaron Smith (Highlanders), TJ Perenara (Hurricanes)
Fly halves: Aaron Cruden (Chiefs), Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes), Colin Slade (Crusaders)
Centres: Ma’a Nonu (Blues), Conrad Smith (Hurricanes), Ryan Crotty (Crusaders), Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders)
Back three: Cory Jane and Julian Savea (Hurricanes), Israel Dagg (Crusaders), Ben Smith (Highlanders)
*Jeremy Thrush will only attend the Wellington camp and Luke Whitelock will only attend the Christchurch camp