Steve Hansen is using the upcoming game against France to blood some new All Blacks. The match does not carry test status, so no caps will be awarded, so Hansen may give as many as six players some international experience.
Loose forward Luke Whitelock will be the captain, despite the fact that it is just his second match with the All Blacks and it seems that Hansen’s intention is to give Whitelock some time to develop some experience at the helm. He is the 133rd player to be captain for the Kiwis.
Hansen will start one of his new men and depending on how the game against the French XV proceeds, has five in reserve that may see some playing time. It seems like a full-fledged youth movement for the Kiwis, where the supply of world-class rugby player at times seems inexhaustible.
The full AB squad is David Havili, Ngani Laumape, Jack Goodhue, Seta Tamanivalu, Tawerea Kerr-Barlow, Lima Sopoaga, Whitelock, Ardie Savea, Dominic Bird, Liam Squire, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen, Tim Perry and Nathan Harris.
The bench players, some of whom could take the start on many sides, are AsafoAumua, Atu Moli, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Scott Barrett, Akira Ioane, Mitch Drummond, Richie Mo’unga and Dillion Hunt.
Hansen’s remarks regarding his squad naming included, “This is another exciting opportunity for a young, group of men to go out and experience what it’s like to wear the All Blacks jersey and deal with all the pressures that come with that. We are sure that they will represent themselves, their families and the All Blacks proudly. On behalf of the All Blacks, we’d like to congratulate Luke as well as the players who are pulling on the black jersey for the first time. It will be a proud moment for all of them.”
They will also see what trial by fire feels like, as the game is being played in Lyon and there could be as many as 60,000 on hand to see firsthand what makes the All Blacks a worldwide drawing card.