The All Blacks selectors, Steve Hansen, Ian Foster and Grant Fox, have selected their squad for the Vista 2016 All Blacks Northern Tour to the USA and Europe for Tests against Ireland, Italy and France.
The squad is as follows: (with province and Test caps in brackets):
The squad features the selection of 19-year-old Auckland outside back Rieko Ioane, who spent time in the All Blacks wider training group this year. It also sees the return to the All Blacks squad of his Auckland teammate, 25-year-old loose forward Steven Luatua, who played 14 Tests in 2013-2014. Otago hooker Liam Coltman, who has provided injury cover throughout the season, has also been selected in an official squad for the first time.
Meanwhile, lock Sam Whitelock suffered a high ankle sprain in last night’s record-breaking Test win over Australia and is expected to be out of rugby for a minimum of three weeks. As a result, Canterbury lock Scott Barrett has been named as an injury replacement for him and will join the touring squad. Fellow lock Brodie Retallick also took a head knock in the game. Wellington lock Vaea Fifita has been named as an injury replacement and a decision on whether he joins the squad will be made this week when Retallick undergoes concussion protocols.
Several players weren’t considered for selection due to injury, including hookers Nathan Harris and James Parsons, midfielders Sonny Bill Williams and Charlie Ngatai and outside back Nehe Milner-Skudder.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “Firstly, the selectors would like to congratulate all players selected for this Vista 2016 All Blacks Northern Tour. It’s always particularly exciting being named in a touring All Blacks squad. We welcome in Rieko who has been picked for the first time. He has shown tremendous abilities and deserves his opportunity.
“We stated at the beginning of the season that this was a year of re-establishment. We are only three quarters of the way through the season, so one of our big goals for this Tour is to continue that re-establishment,” he added.
“The Tour gives our leaders and the team the opportunity to continue to grow, in what will be different environments and against opposition that will bring a different style of game and skillsets. This will ask questions of us and, in doing so, challenge us.
“Younger players will get more experience within the All Blacks environment, and it’ll allow the selectors and coaching group to keep working on blending the mixture of young talent with the more experienced players in our group. This will allow our game to continue to improve and will help ensure the team is future-proofed.
“As always, coaches, players and management will also need to continue to grow their skillsets and challenge themselves to improve their core roles.”
Steve Hansen said Northern Hemisphere tours were always enjoyable experiences for the All Blacks.
“We’re looking forward to returning to Chicago, which is a fantastic city. The two Tests against Ireland will bring a unique ‘mini-series’ element to the tour, while Italy and France are always great places to tour and will throw up their own challenges.
“It’ll be our first time back in Europe since the Rugby World Cup, so we look forward to reconnecting with people up there; and it’s also the first All Blacks tour there for a number of players, so it’s going to be a great experience on a number of levels.”
The All Blacks selectors have also announced that they are revisiting the “apprentice” scheme, which they used to great effect with Ardie Savea in 2013, with 19-year-old Jordie Barrett, the younger brother of Beauden, to tour with the All Blacks.
“We think it has huge benefits for a young player. Jordie will get all the experiences of touring and being part of the All Blacks group without the pressures of having to perform on the park. He is an outstanding prospect and has a big future in the game,” Hansen said.
The makeup of the squad, which will again be captained by number eight Kieran Read, sees 20 forwards selected (three hookers, five props, four locks and eight loose forwards) and 16 backs (three halfbacks, three first five–eighths, four midfielders and six outside backs) and has a total of 1,157 Test caps experience and an average of 32 Test caps per player.
As the Mitre 10 Cup reaches its conclusion, 11 of the provinces are represented in the All Blacks touring squad, with eight Auckland and eight Canterbury players, four from Wellington, three from Waikato, two each from Southland, Otago, Manawatu, Hawke’s Bay and Taranaki; and one player each from Bay of Plenty and Tasman.
Meanwhile, New Zealand Rugby has announced a naming rights sponsorship deal for the All Blacks tour, with leading American private equity firm Vista Equity Partners coming on board for what will be known as the Vista 2016 All Blacks Northern Tour.
Vista, which has offices in Austin, Chicago and San Francisco, and over $26 billion in cumulative capital commitments, currently invests in software, data and technology-based organisations led by world-class management teams with long-term perspective.
“We are delighted to partner with Vista on the All Blacks’ end of year tour,” said New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew. “Vista is a successful and innovative company that prides itself on investing in winning teams and fostering a culture of excellence. Vista and the All Blacks both have a legacy of sustained success, and we look forward to working with them on the upcoming tour.”
“Vista is excited to partner with an organisation that shares in its commitment to excellence,” said Brian Sheth, Vista’s President and Co-Founder. “Working with the All Blacks is a natural partnership for Vista, and we look forward to supporting the team on their Northern Tour.”
Mini biography – Rieko Ioane
19-year-old Rieko Ioane’s outstanding pace and strength have been on full display in his 2016 breakout season. Most recently seen in a black jersey during the Rio Olympics, Auckland-born Ioane has played for New Zealand Under 20, Auckland, the Māori All Blacks and the Blues. He starred for Auckland in this year’s Mitre 10 Cup and topped the regular season records for try-scoring (10), clean breaks, defenders beaten and metres run.
The Vista 2016 All Blacks Northern Tour
1. vs IRELAND, Sat 5 Nov, 3.00PM US CDT (Sun 6 Nov, 9.00AM NZT), Soldier Field, CHICAGO
2. vs. ITALY, Sat 12 Nov, 3.00PM CET (Sun 13 Nov, 3.00AM NZT), Stadio Olimpico, ROME
3. vs. IRELAND, Sat 19 Nov, 5.30PM GMT (Sun 20 Nov, 6.30AM NZT), Aviva Stadium, DUBLIN
4. vs. FRANCE, Sat 26 Nov, 9.00PM CET (Sun 27 Nov, 9.00AM NZT), Stade de France, PARIS