New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has finalised his 31-man squad for the upcoming three test series against England.
There are two new faces in the group – outstanding Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa and athletic Blues lock Patrick Tuipulotu. Loose forwards Victor Vito and Jerome Kaino, of the Hurricanes and Blues respectively, also rejoin the squad after a period away from the national set-up.
Hansen said: “England have been the most improved side in world rugby in the last two years. Their coach Stuart Lancaster has built depth in his side and a strong culture, so they will be a formidable opponent and one we are very excited about playing.
“The Steinlager Series gives both teams a great opportunity to put a stake in the ground, not only this year, but also for Rugby World Cup 2015. This will add to the pressure on both sides in the upcoming Series.
“Those who think England will be fielding a weak side in the first Test are completely underestimating the quality of depth in the England squad. Make no mistake, England have a very strong desire and belief that they can win this Series. Having said that, so do the All Blacks. We acknowledge that this is going to be a huge challenge but look forward to taking it head on.”
New Zealand squad for June Series vs England
Forwards: Dane Coles (Hurricanes), Keven Mealamu (Blues), Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders), Charlie Faumuina (Blues), Ben Franks (Hurricanes), Owen Franks (Crusaders), Tony Woodcock (Blues), Dominic Bird (Crusaders), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues), Sam Whitelock (Crusaders), Sam Cane (Chiefs), Jerome Kaino (Blues), Richie McCaw (Crusaders, capt), Liam Messam (Chiefs), Kieran Read (Crusaders), Victor Vito (Hurricanes).
Backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Chiefs), TJ Perenara (Hurricanes), Aaron Smith (Highlanders), Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes), Aaron Cruden (Chiefs), Colin Slade (Crusaders), Ryan Crotty (Crusaders), Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders), Ma’a Nonu (Blues), Conrad Smith (Hurricanes), Israel Dagg (Crusaders), Cory Jane (Hurricanes), Julian Savea (Hurricanes), Ben Smith (Highlanders).
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images