The All Blacks selectors, Steve Hansen, Ian Foster and Grant Fox, have selected their squad for the Vista 2018 All Blacks Northern Tour to Japan and Europe for Tests against Australia, Japan, England, Ireland and Italy.
The 32-man squad is as follows (with age, province and Test caps in bracket. New All Blacks in bold):
Dane Coles (31, Wellington, 56)
Nathan Harris (26, Bay of Plenty, 18)
Codie Taylor (27, Canterbury, 38)
Owen Franks (30, Canterbury, 103)
Nepo Laulala (27, Counties Manukau, 13)
Joe Moody (30, Canterbury, 36)
Karl Tu’inukuafe (25, North Harbour, 9)
Ofa Tuungafasi (26, Auckland, 22)
Scott Barrett (23, Taranaki, 14)
Brodie Retallick (27, Hawke’s Bay, 71)
Patrick Tuipulotu (25, Auckland, 19)
Samuel Whitelock (30, Canterbury, 105)
Vaea Fifita (26, Wellington, 7)
Dalton Papalii (21, Auckland, uncapped)
Kieran Read, captain (32, Counties Manukau, 114)
Ardie Savea (25, Wellington, 31)
Liam Squire (27, Tasman, 20)
Matt Todd (30, Canterbury, 14)
TJ Perenara (26, Wellington, 51)
Aaron Smith (28, Manawatu, 79)
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (23, Taranaki, 1)
Beauden Barrett (27, Taranaki, 69)
Damian McKenzie (23, Waikato, 19)
Richie Mo’unga (24, Canterbury, 4)
Ryan Crotty (30, Canterbury, 41)
Jack Goodhue (23, Northland, 5)
Anton Lienert-Brown (23, Waikato, 30)
Sonny Bill Williams (33, Counties Manukau, 49)
Jordie Barrett (21, Taranaki, 7)
Rieko Ioane (21, Auckland, 20)
Waisake Naholo (27, Taranaki, 24)
Ben Smith (32, Otago, 73)
In addition to the 32-man squad, the All Blacks selectors have also named a wider squad of 19 players, who will assemble in Japan following the Bledisloe Cup Test to prepare for the Test against Japan.
Those players are as follows (with age, province and Test caps in bracket. New All Blacks in bold):
Asafo Aumua (20, Wellington, uncapped, two non-Tests)
Liam Coltman (28, Otago, 3)
Tyrel Lomax (22, Tasman, uncapped)
Reuben O’Neill (23, Taranaki, uncapped)
Tim Perry (29, Tasman, 5)
Angus Ta’avao (28, Taranaki, 1)
Luke Romano (32, Canterbury, 31)
Jackson Hemopo (24, Manawatu, 2)
Gareth Evans (27, Hawke’s Bay, uncapped)
Dillon Hunt (23, North Harbour, uncapped, one non-Test)
Luke Whitelock (27, Canterbury, 6)
Mitchell Drummond (24, Canterbury, uncapped, one non-Test)
Bryn Hall (26, North Harbour, uncapped)
Brett Cameron (21, Canterbury, uncapped)
Ngani Laumape (25, Manawatu, 8)
Matt Proctor (25, Wellington, uncapped)
George Bridge (23, Canterbury, uncapped)
David Havili (23, Tasman, 3)
Nehe Milner-Skudder (27, Manawatu, 12)
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “This is a hugely exciting Vista Northern Tour we’re about to embark on and one which we’re all looking forward to.”
The key feature of the 32-man All Blacks squad is the selection of new All Black, 21-year-old Auckland loose forward Dalton Papalii, as well as the return of several senior All Blacks from injury.
Papalii gets his opportunity after an impressive Investec Super Rugby season followed by a strong Mitre 10 Cup season. He comes in following injuries to Sam Cane (neck surgery) and the unavailability of Shannon Frizell and Tasman loose forward contender Jordan Taufua.
Loose forward Matt Todd has also been selected after being granted an exemption by the New Zealand Rugby (NZR). The Board noted his significant long service to New Zealand Rugby and the fact he is contracted to return to New Zealand and the Crusaders in 2019.
“We thank the NZR Board and Panasonic for supporting the selection of Matt. It’s much appreciated,” Hansen said.
Meanwhile, a number of All Blacks make eagerly-awaited returns from injury.
Hooker Dane Coles is back after missing most of the 2018 season and coming through his Mitre 10 Cup match on Friday. Props Nepo Laulala and Joe Moody also return to the national side after injury-hampered seasons, with both players also returning to Mitre 10 Cup action on the weekend, while lock Brodie Retallick and loose forward Liam Squire also return from recent injuries.
“We congratulate Dalton on being named in the 32-man squad for the Tour. He has played outstanding rugby this year and deserves his opportunity.”
“We also congratulate those new All Blacks named in the wider squad for the Japan Test. All these players and their families can be proud of the hard work, commitment and dedication that has led to this point,” Hansen said.
The seven new All Blacks in the wider squad are: Tasman prop Tyrel Lomax and fellow prop, Taranaki’s Reuben O’Neill, Hawke’s Bay loose forward Gareth Evans, North Harbour halfback Bryn Hall, Canterbury first five-eighth Brett Cameron, Wellington midfielder Matt Proctor and Canterbury winger George Bridge.
Also returning are three players who played non-Tests on last year’s Vista Northern Tour: Wellington hooker Asafo Aumua, North Harbour loose forward Dillon Hunt, and Canterbury halfback Mitchell Drummond.
These players will be complemented by a core of recent Test players in forwards Liam Coltman, Tim Perry, Angus Ta’avao, Luke Romano, Luke Whitelock and Jackson Hemopo; and backs Nehe Milner-Skudder, David Havili and Ngani Laumape.
“Having the extra group come to Japan will allow us to send the bulk of our main squad to London early to acclimatise and prepare for what will be three big Test matches in the Northern Hemisphere, starting with England.
“Bringing in the wider squad players also allows us to grow our player depth and will expose them to the international arena, which we think will be great for their development and, in turn, will benefit New Zealand Rugby in the long-term.
“We’ll also be using the Japanese leg of our Tour to road test a few things ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup, as we will be using the same hotels and training facilities while we are there. We’re also playing Australia and Japan at two of our Rugby World Cup venues,” Hansen said.
Hansen added: “We’re also looking forward to experiencing the Japanese culture again and what it has to offer and catching up with our supporters up there.”
The makeup of the 32-man All Blacks squad sees 18 forwards selected (three hookers, five props, four locks and six loose forwards) and 14 backs (three halfbacks, three first five–eighths, four midfielders and four outside backs) and has a total of 1,061 Test caps experience, an average of 33 Test caps per player and average age of 26.
There is also a wide spread of players from New Zealand’s rugby provinces in the squad, with 13 of the Mitre 10 Cup teams represented.
The new All Blacks – mini bios
In June 2017 Auckland and Blues loose forward Dalton Papalii was revelling in a second World Under 20 Championship with New Zealand, as a winner in Georgia, but not daring to believe where his career may lead. Opportunity came knocking in 2018 as the Blues were hit by a severe injury crisis and Papalii was signed up. The 21 year old has played outstanding rugby for Auckland in this year’s Mitre 10 Cup competition topping the tackles count late in the season. Auckland-raised Papalii captained his St Kentigern’s College First XV and in 2015 led the New Zealand Schools side to a convincing win over their Aussie counterparts.
Impressive 23-year-old outside back George Bridge has thrived in the successful environment of the Crusaders Super Rugby team. Born in Gisborne, Bridge moved down to Christchurch six years ago to play club rugby, getting selected in the under 20s national team and Canterbury for the Mitre 10 Cup. He had an outstanding Investec Super Rugby debut during the Crusaders successful 2017 campaign and was named their Rookie of the Year. He continued his form into 2018, finishing second-equal on the leading try scorers list with 15 tries in the Crusaders’ back to back title season. Earlier this year Bridge signed with the club until 2022.
21-year-old Canterbury first five eighth Brett Cameron came of age in the 2017 Mitre 10 Cup, making an assured performance in the semifinal in just his third provincial outing for the red and blacks, as Canterbury marched to the Mitre 10 Cup title. Cameron first came onto the national radar in 2014 when he was plucked from Wanganui’s small Cullinane College and named in the New Zealand Schools training squad. The all-round sportsman was already well known in Wanganui, having played age-grade rugby. After school Cameron headed south to Lincoln University and into the Canterbury provincial team. He played one match for the Crusaders this year.
Born and bred in the Hawke’s Bay, 27-year-old loose forward Gareth Evans shifted south to Otago University to study and made the Otago provincial side in 2011 aged just 20 going on to play three years for the province, bringing an abrasive style and huge work rate to his game. He was drafted into the Highlanders for the 2014 season, making 14 appearances in his debut year, before helping the side to their maiden Super Rugby title in 2015 and victory over the touring British & Irish Lions in 2017. The younger brother of 2009 All Black Bryn Evans, Gareth transferred to the Hurricanes in 2018 and quickly established himself as the first choice No 8.
Dynamic halfback Bryn Hall’s highly competitive nature and high-energy rugby makes him an asset in any team he plays for. 26-year-old Auckland-born Hall captained his St Peter’s College First XV, was co-captain of New Zealand Under 20 in 2012, and North Harbour provincial captain in 2015. Hall made his provincial debut for North Harbour in 2012 and strong performances saw him selected for the Blues for the 2013 season. He spent four years with the Blues before transferring to the Crusaders in 2017 and a Championship-winning season. He also earned selection in the Māori All Blacks during the 2017 DHL New Zealand Lions Series.
Tyrel Lomax grew up playing rugby league in Australia, before making the switch to rugby union. The 22-year-old prop played his first year of Investec Super Rugby for the Melbourne Rebels in 2017, before returning to New Zealand. He played for the Tasman Mako in that year’s Mitre 10 Cup and after a solid debut season was selected as one of 10 new caps in the Māori All Blacks for their tour to Canada and France. Lomax joined the Highlanders in 2018, making 15 appearances. Lomax played for Australian schoolboys in 2014 and the Australian U20 side the following year. His father is former Kiwis rugby league prop John Lomax.
23-year-old Taranaki prop Reuben O’Neill has overcome injury and a diabetes diagnosis early in his career to take his rugby to the next level. O’Neill was selected in the New Zealand Schools side in 2012 and then the Taranaki Mitre 10 Cup side in 2015 after successfully returning to rugby from a back injury. O’Neill was a member of the Taranaki side which upset Canterbury to take the Ranfurly Shield in 2017, alongside All Blacks teammate Angus Ta’avao. He has continued to shore up the scrum so far this year and his strength and power in the front row has caught the attention of the All Blacks selectors.
A standout player for both the Hurricanes and the Wellington Lions provincial side, Matt Proctor made his Investec Super Rugby debut in 2013 and was a part of the Hurricanes side that secured their first Super Rugby title in 2016. His Super season was cut short by injury this year but he returned to captain Wellington’s 2018 Mitre 10 Cup campaign. Proctor represented the Māori All Blacks in ten appearances and his representative career also includes New Zealand Schools and New Zealand Under 20. He is not the only Hurricanes player in the family, with younger brother Billy signing a five-year deal with the club this year.
The Vista 2018 All Blacks Northern Tour
1. vs. AUSTRALIA. Saturday 27 October, Nissan Stadium, YOKOHAMA
Kick-off: 3.00PM (NZT: 7.00PM)
2. vs. JAPAN. Saturday 3 November, Ajinomoto Stadium, TOKYO
Kick-off: 2.45PM (NZT: 6.45PM)
3. vs. ENGLAND. Saturday 10 November, Twickenham, LONDON
Kick-off: 3.00PM BST (NZT: 3.00AM Sunday 11 November
4. vs. IRELAND. Saturday 17 November, Aviva Stadium, IRELAND
Kick-off: 7.00PM BST (NZT: 7.00AM Sunday 18 November)
5. vs. ITALY. Saturday 24 November, Stadio Olimpico, ROME
Kick-off: 3.00PM CST (NZT: 2.00AM Sunday 25 November)