New Zealand name training squad ahead of Rugby Championship

Steve Hansen has announced a 34-man training squad
Steve Hansen has announced a 34-man training squad

New Zealand have announced a 34-man training squad ahead of the Rugby Championship 2017 tournament that kicks-off later this month.

The squad will begin their preparations in Christchurch and it does not contain any player from Crusaders, who will be busy with the Super Rugby final clash against Lions in Johannesburg.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen will name the final squad on 7th August and three days later, they will assemble in Auckland to prepare for the opening game of the tournament against Australia in Sydney on 19th August.

The squad also features a number of new faces and Hansen believes the absence of Crusaders players will allow him to explore talents.

"Rather than waste the opportunity we've seized it with both hands and brought people in that we want to find a little more about, other people that we think aren't far from getting in the squad," Hansen said.

"Atu Moli is a young tighthead prop and we've just lost Charlie [Faumuina] so we're looking to the future and it's a good opportunity for him to come in and work with someone like Mike Cron on the scrummaging side of his game and then, after the camp, we can know a little bit more about him".

Malakai Fekitoa, who will move to Toulon at the end of the season has been overlooked while Hansen is also looking at the probability of using Chiefs utility Damian McKenzie at number 10.

"Damian [McKenzie] is a very, very good player. We see him as someone who could do that role [coming off the bench at first five-eighths] once we've seen him play some more rugby at 10," he said.

New Zealand squad:

Forwards: Dane Coles, Nathan Harris, Kane Hames, Nepo Laulala, Atu Moli, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Dominic Bird, Tom Franklin, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Akira Ioane, Jerome Kaino, Ardie Savea, Liam Squire.

Backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Thomas Perenara, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Damian McKenzie, Lima Sopoaga, Richard Buckman, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Charlie Ngatai, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, Julian Savea, Ben Smith.

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