All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen and his fellow selectors Assistant Coach Ian Foster and former All Black Grant Fox have today announced the squad for the 2012 Investec Rugby Championship, with Auckland and Blues prop Charlie Faumuina the latest new All Black.
The squad is: (with province and Test caps. * denotes a new cap)
Andrew Hore - Taranaki (65)
Keven Mealamu - Auckland (93)
Wyatt Crockett - Canterbury (6)
Charlie Faumuina - Auckland*
Ben Franks - Canterbury (18)
Owen Franks - Canterbury (34)
Tony Woodcock - North Harbour (86)
Brodie Retallick - Bay of Plenty (3)
Luke Romano - Canterbury (1)
Samuel Whitelock - Canterbury (28)
Sam Cane - Bay of Plenty (2)
Richie McCaw (C) - Canterbury (106)
Liam Messam - Waikato (10)
Kieran Read - Canterbury (38)
Adam Thomson - Otago (27)
Victor Vito - Wellington (14)
Aaron Smith - Manawatu (3)
Piri Weepu - Auckland (59)
Daniel Carter - Canterbury (87)
Aaron Cruden - Manawatu (11)
Tamati Ellison - Otago (2)
Ma'a Nonu - Wellington (66)
Conrad Smith - Wellington (58)
Israel Dagg - Hawke's Bay (15)
Hosea Gear - Wellington (9)
Cory Jane - Wellington (31)
Ben Smith - Otago (5)
Julian Savea - Wellington (2)
"We are all looking forward to the new Investec Championship and the various challenges that it will bring," All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said. "But we also know that we will need to step up from where we were in the recent Steinlager Series. We now have the opportunity to take our game to the next level."
"The three best teams in the world will be playing each other, and with Argentina joining in for the first time, it's going to be hugely exciting, not only for the teams involved, but for rugby fans as well."
The key feature of the squad is the selection of prop Charlie Faumuina, who was part of the All Blacks wider training group for the Steinlager Series Tests against Ireland in June, but missed selection then due to injury. A cornerstone of the Blues forward pack, 25-year-old Faumuina came through the Auckland scrum academy and made his provincial debut for Auckland in 2007, the same year he played for the New Zealand Under 21 team, and his Super Rugby debut in 2009. Primarily a tighthead prop, he can also cover loosehead.
"We would like to congratulate Charlie on his selection. He had to wait a while to get over his calf injury before he could be selected officially in the All Blacks, so it will be exciting for him and his family. He's an outstanding front rower and we look forward to seeing him play at the next level," Hansen said.
The squad also sees the return of Hurricanes and Wellington outside back Cory Jane who missed the Steinlager Series with an ankle injury, while Waikato and Chiefs loose forward Liam Messam, who was called into the Steinlager Series squad as an injury replacement, has also been selected.
Meanwhile, an injury replacement for the injured Conrad Smith will be confirmed next week, with 17-Test All Black Sonny Bill Williams the likely player, once arrangements have been finalised.
Players from the All Blacks Steinlager Series squad who have missed out on selection are wing Zac Guildford and prop Ben Tameifuna. Players not considered for selection due to injury include Anthony Boric (neck), Jerome Kaino (shoulder), Colin Slade (leg), Richard Kahui (shoulder) and Ali Williams (knee).
The squad is made up of 16 forwards and 12 backs with a combined total of 879 Test caps and will again be captained by 106-Test All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw, with Daniel Carter his Vice-Captain.