June 1, 2008 - 12:48PM
New Zealand coach Graham Henry included six newcomers in his first All Blacks squad of the year as he looks to rebuild a side hit by an exodus of players to overseas clubs.
Adam Thomson, Anthony Boric, Anthony Tuitavake, Rudi Wulf, Stephen Donald and Richard Kahui have been included in a squad for three tests against Ireland next Saturday and England on June 14 and 21.
"The new players impressed in the Super 14 and played their way into the squad," Henry said."A few of them were not in the frame at the beginning of the year but they proved they were some of the form players in New Zealand rugby."
New Zealand rugby has been hit hard by the departure of a succession of top class players to Europe and Japan.
Nick Evans, Isa Nacewa, Troy Flavell, Royce Willis, Doug Howlett, Byron Kelleher, Anton Oliver, Reuben Thorne, Craig Newby and Carl Hayman have all left since last year's World Cup, while Jerry Collins announced his shock retirement from all forms of rugby during the week.
Henry has recalled four players - John Afoa, Jerome Kaino, Ma'a Nonu and Brad Thorn - to try and help compensate for the loss of so much experience.
Two players in the squad are carrying injuries that will rule them out of selection for at least the first test on Saturday. Front rower Tony Woodcock has a toe injury and halfback Brendon Leonard a bruised knee.
Henry said the first test against Ireland would be a major challenge.
"The Irish were strong when they came to New Zealand in 2006 and may be stronger this time," he said."They've already been in camp for a couple of weeks, except for their Munster players who were winning the European championship. We need to be very aware of the challenge and focussed on the task at hand."
Auckland winger Joe Rokocoko was not considered for selection because of injury.
Squad: John Afoa (Auckland), Anthony Boric (North Harbour), Dan Carter (Canterbury), Stephen Donald (Waikato), Andy Ellis (Canterbury), Andrew Hore (Taranaki), Richard Kahui (Waikato), Jerome Kaino (Auckland), Sione Lauaki (Waikato), Brendon Leonard (Waikato), Richie McCaw (Canterbury), Leon MacDonald (Canterbury), Keven Mealamu (Auckland), Mils Muliaina (Waikato), Ma'a Nonu (Wellington), Sitiveni Sivivatu (Waikato), Conrad Smith (Wellington), Greg Somerville (Canterbury), Rodney So'oialo (Wellington), Adam Thomson (Otago), Brad Thorn (Tasman), Neemia Tialata (Wellington), Anthony Tuitavake (North Harbour), Ali Williams (Tasman), Tony Woodcock (North Harbour), Rudi Wulf (North Harbour).