AllBlacks Steinlager Series squad named - seven new caps     03 Jun 2012    

The squad is as follows: (with province and Test caps. * denotes a new cap)

Andrew Hore Taranaki (62)
Keven Mealamu Auckland (92)

Wyatt Crockett Canterbury (6)
Ben Franks Tasman (15)
Owen Franks Canterbury (31)
Ben Tameifuna Hawke's Bay *
Tony Woodcock North Harbour (83)

Brodie Retallick Bay of Plenty *
Luke Romano Canterbury *
Samuel Whitelock Canterbury (25)
Ali Williams Auckland (73)

Loose forwards
Sam Cane Bay of Plenty *
Richie McCaw (C) Canterbury (103)
Kieran Read Canterbury (36)
Adam Thomson Otago (24)
Victor Vito Wellington (13)

Aaron Smith Manawatu *
Piri Weepu Auckland (56)

First five-eighths
Daniel Carter Canterbury (85)
Aaron Cruden Manawatu (9)
Beauden Barrett Taranaki *

Tamati Ellison Otago (1)
Ma'a Nonu Wellington (66)
Conrad Smith Wellington (55)
Sonny Bill Williams Canterbury (14)

Outside backs
Israel Dagg Hawke's Bay (12)
Hosea Gear Wellington (8)
Zac Guildford Hawke's Bay (8)
Ben Smith Otago (2)
Julian Savea Wellington *

The squad features seven new caps, including three players from the well-performing Chiefs forward pack: Hawke's Bay prop Ben Tameifuna, Bay of Plenty loose forward Sam Cane and Bay of Plenty lock Brodie Retallick. Crusaders and Canterbury lock Luke Romano is also a new cap in the forwards.

The new caps in the backs are talented Manawatu and Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith, and the exciting Hurricanes duo of Taranaki's Beauden Barrett and Wellington's Julian Savea.

Meanwhile, Chiefs hooker and two-Test All Black Hikawera Elliot will also come into the All Blacks Steinlager Series squad as an injury replacement for Keven Mealamu who is recovering from a calf injury.

The squad is made up of six Highlanders, 10 Crusaders, four Hurricanes, five Chiefs and five Blues. The squad will be once again led by 31-year-old All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and vice-captain Daniel Carter and is made up of 16 forwards and 14 backs, with a combined total of 879 Test caps.

Players who were unavailable for selection due to injury include wider training group player Charlie Faumuina (calf), Anthony Boric (neck), Cory Jane (ankle), Richard Kahui (shoulder), Jerome Kaino (shoulder), Colin Slade (leg) and Isaia Toeava (hip).

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: "On behalf of the three selectors, we would like to congratulate all the players on being selected for the Steinlager Series, especially the new caps. It's always a proud moment for any rugby player to be named in the All Blacks, but the first time is particularly special.

"We would also like to take this opportunity to say to those players who have missed out, to not give up on your dreams. Opportunities will always arise," Hansen added.

"We have selected a really balanced squad of experienced players who have played with distinction over a number of Tests, and a group of young players with huge potential.

"The two wider training group camps we held over the last two weeks really helped us establish the selection of the squad and lay the groundwork ahead of the first Test. There's been a real energy, professionalism and excitement coming from all the players involved.

"There are always huge external expectations on the All Blacks. But, for us, we wouldn't want it any other way because what this does is raise our own internal expectations to an even higher level. We want to win Test matches, and we want to do it by performing well."

Hansen also said he was very excited about leading a talented management team and coaching group into the Steinlager Series.

"I've really enjoyed working with Grant Fox and Ian Foster from a selection point of view and have also been very impressed with the coaching qualities of Ian (back attack), Aussie McLean (defence) and Mike Cron (forwards). They have all brought a huge amount of experience and great rugby nous into the All Blacks environment, which has been refreshing and stimulating for those of us involved.

"I want to publicly welcome and acknowledge them, as well as the rest of the All Blacks management team who have been busily preparing for the season."

The All Blacks squad assembles in Auckland today to prepare for the first Test against Ireland next Saturday at Eden Park. The second Test is at Christchurch's AMI Stadium (Addington) on Saturday 16 June and the third Test at Hamilton's Waikato Stadium on Saturday 23 June. The All Blacks side to play in the first Test will be named this Thursday.

The new All Blacks - mini biographies

BEAUDEN BARRETT turned 21 in May this year and has added an exciting 2012 Investec Super Rugby season to what has been an incredible two years since he made his ITM Cup provincial debut in 2010. He has played for New Zealand Sevens, won the IRB Junior World Championship with New Zealand Under 20 in 2011, and helped his Taranaki team take the Ranfurly Shield off Southland. Rugby is in his genes: his father Kevin also played for both Taranaki and the Hurricanes.

SAM CANE'S inclusion in the All Blacks marks a rapid rise for the young loose forward who hails from the small Bay of Plenty town of Reporoa. In 2011 he was part of the Junior World Championship-winning New Zealand Under 20 side and earned a nomination for the IRB's Junior Player of the Year Award. He made his Super Rugby debut in 2010 at just 18 years old, and ITM Cup selection for Bay of Plenty later that year. He has been a regular member of age-grade teams, including two years in the New Zealand Under 17 squad.

BRODIE RETALLICK has had an impressive Investec Super Rugby debut season with the Chiefs so far, energising their set pieces and proving himself as an outstanding player around the field. The tall player names former All Blacks lock Chris Jack as one of his inspirations and has followed a development path taken by many of his All Blacks squad mates. He was also part of the New Zealand Under 20 side that won the Junior World Championship in Italy last year.

LUKE ROMANO is the consummate lock, with all the skills required to do the job properly and has continued to develop and improve since his provincial debut in 2009. He's an impressive jumper and so far in Investec Super Rugby has shown himself to be an attacking ball-runner. Extremely powerful, the qualified builder has a pair of the biggest feet in New Zealand rugby (size 17) and shows a burgeoning strength and style of play reminiscent of some of the toughest of the All Blacks tall timber.

JULIAN SAVEA won the IRB's Junior Player of the Year Award in 2010 after scoring eight tries for the Junior World Championship-winning New Zealand Under 20 side in Argentina, and now the electrifying Wellington winger is poised to make his All Blacks debut. A powerful runner, with the ability to burst through defences, he has scored numerous scintillating tries so far in 2012 Investec Super Rugby and will be hungry for more when the season resumes. Has also played for New Zealand Secondary Schools and New Zealand Sevens.

AARON SMITH is the 13th Smith to be named in the All Blacks (and one of three in this squad) and the explosive halfback has impressed at the Highlanders in his first two seasons of Investec Super Rugby with his quick passes and his speed on attack. The former apprentice hairdresser is an experienced provincial player, with 43 caps to his credit, and this will be the competitive Manawatu man's second opportunity to take on the Irish after helping New Zealand Maori beat them when the Irish toured New Zealand in 2010.

BEN TAMEIFUNA is the heaviest member of this All Blacks squad tipping the scales at 140 kilograms and has been at the forefront of the Chiefs' dominance at scrum time in the 2012 Investec Super Rugby season so far. Part of the Junior World Championship 2011-winning New Zealand Under 20 side, the young man is an impressive scrummager with power to burn and the versatility to play at tighthead and hooker.

All Blacks Management

Steve Hansen - Head Coach / Selector
Darren Shand - Manager
Gilbert Enoka - Assistant Manager
Ian Foster - Assistant Coach / Selector
Mike Cron - Forwards Coach
Brian "Aussie" McLean - Defence Coach
Grant Fox - Selector
Dr Deb Robinson - Doctor
Peter Gallagher - Physiotherapist
George Duncan - Manual Therapist
Dr Nic Gill - Strength and Conditioning Coach
Alistair Rogers - Performance Analyst
Errol Collins - Logistics
Joe Locke - Media Manager
Katrina Darry - Nutritionist
Bianca Thiel - Executive Assistant

Steinlager Series - All Blacks v Ireland ticketing details
* 1ST TEST, Saturday 9 June 2012, Eden Park, Auckland
Still Available! Get your tickets from ticketmaster 0800 111 999

* 2ND TEST, Saturday 16 June 2012, AMI Stadium (Addington), Christchurch SOLD OUT! Last tickets on sale this Tuesday from ticketdirect 0800 224 224

* 3RD TEST, Saturday 23 June 2012, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Selling Quickly! Get your tickets from ticketdirect 0800 224 224