Steve Hansen names six debutants
June 2, 2013
Charles Piutau has been impressive for the Blues © Getty Images
New Zealand All Blacks selectors have named six rookies in their 32-man squad to play France in the three-Test Gallaher Cup series.
Francis Saili and Charles Piutau have been called into the backline from the Blues, while Chiefs prop Ben Afeaki, Blues loose forward Steven Luatua and Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush are named amon the forwards with Crusaders loose forward Matt Todd come into the squad as an injury replacement for Samuel Whitelock.
The Crusaders lock is recovering from a broken finger but he expects to be available for the Third Test. Players unavailable for selection due to injury included Charlie Faumuina (calf), Cory Jane (knee) and wider training group member Dominic Bird (shoulder).
New Zealand squad to play France
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said: "In picking the side, the selectors have looked at, firstly, a combination of Super Rugby form and past All Blacks form; and secondly, getting the balance right between experience and new blood.
"In doing that, we have looked to take the opportunity to introduce six new players [including Matt Todd], and the selectors would like to congratulate those young men on being selected.
"That means we have introduced 15 new players to our environment in the last 12 months, thus accomplishing one of our goals of having a mixture of experience and enthusiastic new faces.
"It's now about consolidating and narrowing our focus for this three-match Test series against what will be a very good French side. They are a team never to be underestimated."
The backs-forwards split for the squad sees 18 forwards and 14 backs, with the squad boasting a combined 905 Test caps. Versatility is the key in the backs with a number of players able to play in multiple positions.
The squad is made up of five Highlanders players, eight Crusaders, seven Hurricanes, six Chiefs and six Blues. Provincial representation is led by Canterbury (seven players) with Wellington (six), Auckland (four), North Harbour (three), Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Hawke's Bay and Manawatu (two); and Northland and Otago (one).
Hansen said a number of players were unlucky to miss out either through non-selection or injury, "but I would like to emphasise that we as selectors believe that over time a number of these players will be seen in the black jersey so our message to these young men is to keep striving and be ready for your opportunity when it comes."
The All Blacks squad assembles in Auckland on Sunday to prepare for the first Test at Eden Park on June 8. The teams contest the second Test in Christchurch on Saturday, June 15, and the third Test in New Plymouth on Saturday, June 22.
France captain Thierry Dusautoir has challenged his inexperienced team-mates
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