The All Blacks selectors, Head Coach Ian Foster, Assistant Head Coach John Plumtree and former All Black Grant Fox, have named the squad for the 2021 Steinlager Series Tests against Fiji and Tonga.
The key feature of the squad is the selection of four new All Blacks, in young Highlanders and Southland prop Ethan de Groot; Crusaders and Tasman loose forward Ethan Blackadder; Blues and Tasman halfback Finlay Christie; and young Chiefs and Waikato player Quinn Tupaea.
The squad also sees the return of 2019 All Blacks loose forward Luke Jacobson and prop Angus Ta’avao. Midfielders David Havili, who last played for the national side in 2017, and Braydon Ennor are also back, along with senior All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick, who recently returned from a playing stint in Japan.
In naming the first All Blacks squad for 2021, Head Coach Ian Foster said: “Firstly, on behalf of the selectors, I want to congratulate all players selected for this Steinlager Series squad, especially, the new All Blacks, Ethan de Groot and Ethan Blackadder, and Finlay and Quinn. It’s an incredibly special day for them and their families and we look forward to catching up with them when we get into camp this week.
“There will be players who will be disappointed at missing out on selection and we feel for them as well.”
122-Test lock Samuel Whitelock has been named captain for the Steinlager Series, replacing Sam Cane who is still recovering from chest surgery.
"Sam Whitelock is the right man for the job,” Foster said.
“He’s hugely experienced, not just as a player but also as a leader, and he has great connections with Sam Cane and the leaders in the team as well. Our current leadership group is working hard together and we know Sam will lead the team superbly in the Steinlager Series.”
As well as Cane, several other injured All Blacks weren’t considered for selection, including props Ofa Tuungafasi and Joe Moody and midfielder Jack Goodhue. Highlanders halfback Folau Fakatava was also not considered for selection due to injury.
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The 36-strong squad is as follows:
(With age, Super Rugby club, provincial union and Test caps in brackets. New All Blacks are in bold):
Asafo Aumua (24, Hurricanes / Wellington, 1)
Dane Coles (34, Hurricanes / Wellington, 74)
Codie Taylor (30, Crusaders / Canterbury, 56)
George Bower (29, Crusaders / Otago, uncapped)
Ethan de Groot (22, Highlanders / Southland, new cap)
Nepo Laulala (29, Blues / Counties Manukau, 29)
Tyrel Lomax (25, Hurricanes / Tasman, 6)
Angus Ta’avao (31, Chiefs / Auckland, 14)
Karl Tu’inukuafe (28, Blues / North Harbour, 17)
Scott Barrett (27, Crusaders / Taranaki, 36)
Brodie Retallick (30, Chiefs / Hawke’s Bay, 81)
Patrick Tuipulotu (28, Blues / Auckland, 35)
Tupou Vaa’i (21, Chiefs / Taranaki, 4)
Samuel Whitelock (32, Crusaders / Canterbury, 122) – captain
Ethan Blackadder (26, Crusaders / Tasman, new cap)
Shannon Frizell (27, Highlanders / Tasman, 13)
Akira Ioane (26, Blues / Auckland, 2)
Luke Jacobson (24, Chiefs / Waikato, 2)
Dalton Papalii (23, Blues / Counties Manukau, 4)
Ardie Savea (27, Hurricanes / Wellington, 49)
Hoskins Sotutu (22, Blues / Counties Manukau, 5)
Finlay Christie (25, Blues / Tasman, new cap)
Aaron Smith (32, Highlanders / Manawatu, 97)
Brad Weber (30, Chiefs / Hawke’s Bay, 7)
Beauden Barrett (30, Blues / Taranaki, 88)
Richie Mo’unga (27, Crusaders / Canterbury, 22)
Braydon Ennor (23, Crusaders / Canterbury, 1)
David Havili (26, Crusaders / Tasman, 3)
Rieko Ioane (24, Blues / Auckland, 33)
Anton Lienert-Brown (26, Chiefs / Waikato, 49)
Quinn Tupaea (22, Chiefs / Waikato, new cap)
Jordie Barrett (24, Hurricanes / Taranaki, 23)
George Bridge (26, Crusaders / Canterbury, 10)
Will Jordan (22, Crusaders / Tasman, 2)
Damian McKenzie (26, Chiefs / Waikato, 27)
Sevu Reece (23, Crusaders / Tasman, 8)
Foster said the All Blacks had a clear goal for 2021 to be number one in the world again.
“This is going to involve hard work and a commitment to our preparation, whilst at the same time expanding our depth, with an eye to the future.
The team will assemble for a three-day camp in South Auckland later this week before heading into the Tongan Test week.
The All Blacks squad is made up of 21 forwards (three hookers, six props, five locks and seven loose forwards) and 15 backs (three halfbacks, two first five–eighths, five midfielders, and five outside backs).
The squad is made up of nine Blues players, eight Chiefs, five Hurricanes, 11 Crusaders and three Highlanders, while 12 of New Zealand’s provinces are represented, with seven Tasman players, five from Canterbury, four each from Auckland, Waikato and Taranaki, three from Wellington and Counties Manukau, two from Hawke’s Bay, and one each from North Harbour, Manawatu, Otago and Southland.
The squad has an average age of 26, a total of 920 caps experience for an average of 25 Test caps per player.
The 2021 Steinlager Series
1. All Blacks vs Tonga, 7.05PM, Saturday 3 July, plus Māori All Blacks vs Manu Samoa (kick-off 4.30PM), Mt Smart Stadium, AUCKLAND
2. All Blacks vs Fiji, 7.05PM, Saturday 10 July, Forsyth Barr Stadium, DUNEDIN
3. All Blacks vs Fiji, 7.05PM, Saturday 17 July, plus Tonga vs Samoa (kick-off 4.00PM) FMG Stadium Waikato, HAMILTON