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Four new faces in Hansen's extended All Blacks squad for Rugby Championship

Connact castaway Sevu Reece is in the 39-strong squad announced for openers against Argentina and South Africa.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen.
Image: AAP/PA Images

FOUR NEW FACES have been included in the All Blacks squad for their opening two matches of the Rugby Championship against Argentina and South Africa.

Head coach Steve Hansen has confirmed his 39-strong squad with Chiefs star and former U20 captain Luke Jacobson, Highlanders and Otago fly-half Josh Ioane and Crusaders duo Braydon Ennor and Sevu Reece the new additions.

Reece had been due to move to Connacht last year, but the Irish province pulled the plug after a domestic violence court case.

This comes as an important squad selection for Hansen with the World Cup in Japan looming, as is the end of his time in charge. The main man at the helm since 2012 and prior to that, an assistant coach for eight years, Hansen will step down after the tournament and will hope to do so on a high.

The whittling down begins now, with Sam Cane returning after recovering from a neck injury. Veteran Sonny Bill Williams and one-test scrumhalf Brad Weber are also included along with Asafo Aumua and Atu Moli, who have both played one non-test match for the side.

Ryan Crotty, Scott Barrett, Tim Perry and Damian McKenzie all miss out through injury while Liam Squire made himself unavailable for selection.

That said, though, much of the focus will be on the new boys: Ennor (21), Ione (23), Jacobson (22) and Reece (22). 

“On behalf of the selectors, we want to congratulate the four new All Blacks named today – Luke, Josh, Braydon and Sevu,” Hansen said. 

“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 added: “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.”

The All Blacks face the Pumas on Saturday, 20 July in Buenos Aires. Next up is South Africa the following weekend in Wellington, while they go head-to-head with Australia twice later in the summer.

All Blacks squad:

Forwards: Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Liam Coltman, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Atu Moli, Angus Ta’avao, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Samuel Whitelock, Jackson Hemopo, Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Shannon Frizell, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papalii, Kieran Read (captain), Ardie Savea, Matt Todd.

Backs: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Josh Ioane, Richie Mo’unga, Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Braydon Ennor, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Sevu Reece, Ben Smith.

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Emma Duffy

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