Barrett brothers feature in All Blacks squad for Lions tests
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) Jordie Barrett has been included in New Zealand's squad for the three-test series against the British and Irish Lions, joining flyhalf Beauden and lock Scott as the first trio of brothers to be selected for an All Blacks squad.
Utility back Jordie and his Hurricanes teammate Ngani Leaumape are the only uncapped players and are among the main surprises in the 33-man squad announced by head coach Steve Hansen on Thursday.
''Obviously, it's a very special occasion for the Barrett and Laumape families with Jordie and Ngani being selected for the first time,'' Hansen said. ''Jordie has been in outstanding form, he has a skill set which is complete and has a great running and kicking game.
''Ngani too has been impressive throughout the Super season and has forced his way in through commanding performances.''
The other surprise is the inclusion of 49-test hooker Dane Coles, who has not played since mid-March because of concussion. Coles was widely expected to miss out because of his ongoing symptoms and his lack of recent matches but the selectors have decided his experience and leadership are indispensable.
Jordie Barrett has edged Damian McKenzie for the utility role while Leaumape has been selected in midfield along with Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown and Sonny Bill Williams, likely at the expense of Malakai Fekitoa.
Any hesitation the selectors may have had about picking Williams after a season blighted by injury was blown away with his commanding performance in the Blues' 22-16 win over the Lions in Auckland on Wednesday. Williams scored one try and created another in a timely display of form.
Crotty's selection was also in doubt after he injured ribs in last weekend's Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and Highlanders. Fullback and vice-captain Ben Smith, who failed a concussion test in the same match and for the second time this season, has been named beside Barrett.
Captain Kieran Read has recently been sidelined with a broken thumb but his selection was not in doubt, though he is unlikely to play in New Zealand's test against Samoa on June 16.
Beauden Barrett and lock Brodie Retallick have both been experiencing headaches in recent weeks - possible symptoms of concussion - though both have passed preliminary tests.
Scott Barrett joins Retallick, Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano in the second row. Patrick Tuipulotu has been omitted after missing the Blues' match against the Lions for disciplinary reasons.
Blues winger Rieko Ioane, who has played two tests, and prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi, have been selected after a strong Super Rugby season and in a sign Hansen has based his selection as much on form as experience.
Four-test hooker Nathan Harris was picked along with Coles and Codie Taylor, providing cover if Coles is not able to regain full fitness. The squad contains 17 forwards and 16 backs.
''This has been by far the toughest team that we've had to select for some time and some players who are in very good form missed out,'' Hansen said. ''We see the Lions series as a great opportunity to gauge where we're at from both an individual and a team perspective.
''We're excited by the uniqueness that comes with playing a Lions series as it only comes around every 12 years.''
All Blacks squad:
Hookers: Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Nathan Harris.
Props: Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
Locks: Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock.
Loose forwards: Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read (captain), Ardie Savea, Liam Squire.
Halfbacks: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, T.J. Perenara, Aaron Smith.
Flyhalves: Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden, Lima Sopoaga.
Midfielders: Ryan Crotty, Ngani Laumape, Anton Leinert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams.
Outside backs: Jordie Barrett, Israel Dagg, Rieko Ioane, Waisake Naholo, Julian Savea, Ben Smith.