Crusaders Luke Whitelock and Luke Romano are among the surprise
selections in the All Blacks' 35-man wider training group revealed
by Steve Hansen last night.
One of the major omissions is Crusaders wing Zac Guildford who, despite being one of the form wings in New Zealand, has been overlooked along with hooker Corey Flynn.
Hansen will today reveal the reasons for his selections. Guildford's omission, which could be related to his alcohol-fuelled indiscretions in Rarotonga after the World Cup, mean his chances of being selected for next month's three-Test series against Ireland may be bleak.
The squad will train in camps in Auckland and Wellington later this month and be whittled back to 30 on June 3 ahead of the opening Irish test on June 9 at Eden Park.
The naming of loose forward Whitelock and lock Romano does not guarantee the pair will earn their first caps against Ireland but they now have a path to higher honours if they can impress the new All Blacks boss.
The selection of Whitelock falls into the "bolter" category. Although he has been a regular fixture on the Crusaders bench this season he has only started twice at No8 and blindside flanker.
The squad includes 21 members of last year's World Cup squad and six players from last year's NZ under-20 side that won the world title. This includes Whitelock who captained the side and is in his first season of Super Rugby.
"We have two aims with the selection of the players for the camps. Our main aim is to begin to prepare a squad to win the series against Ireland; and secondly, it gives us the opportunity to introduce and work with some younger, talented players in the All Blacks environment," Hansen stated.
Hansen has also unveiled a number of other bold selections and has given an indication he is already looking to build for the future.
Exciting Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith has earned a call-up ahead of the Hurricanes' No9 TJ Perenara.
There was better news for Perenara's team-mates Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea and Brad Shields, however, who have all been included.
The selection of rugged loose forward Shields, who impressed for Wellington last year, is a surprise but Barrett and Savea have thrived following regular starts by coach Mark Hammett this season.
The Chiefs have also provided a host of newcomers, including monster 134kg prop Ben Tameifuna, halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow and openside flanker Sam Cane.
Utility back Richard Kahui has been selected despite dislocating shoulder in the Chiefs defeat to the Reds last night, as has prop Charlie Faumuina who pulled a calf muscle against the Lions on Friday night.
All Blacks training Squad
Backs: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Cory Jane, Julian Savea, Richard Kahui, Conrad Smith, Tamati Ellison, Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, Piri Weepu, Andy Ellis, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Smith
Forwards: Kieran Read, Victor Vito, Luke Whitelock, Brad Shields, Richie McCaw, Sam Cane, Adam Thomson, Sam Whitelock, Ali Williams, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Wyatt Crockett, Tony Woodcock, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Tameifuna, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Andrew Hore
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