All Blacks Coach Graham Henry and his Assistant Coaches Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith have today announced the squad for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The All Blacks squad in position (with province and Test caps in brackets) is:
Corey Flynn Canterbury (14)
Andrew Hore Taranaki (54)
Keven Mealamu Auckland (85)
John Afoa Auckland (33)
Ben Franks Tasman (11)
Owen Franks Canterbury (23)
Tony Woodcock North Harbour (75)
Anthony Boric North Harbour (20)
Brad Thorn Canterbury (51)
Samuel Whitelock Canterbury (17)
Ali Williams Auckland (65)
Jerome Kaino Auckland (41)
Richie McCaw (capt) Canterbury (97)
Kieran Read Canterbury (31)
Adam Thomson Otago (21)
Victor Vito Wellington (7)
Jimmy Cowan Southland (47)
Andy Ellis Canterbury (20)
Piri Weepu Wellington (48)
Daniel Carter Canterbury (82)
Colin Slade Canterbury (5)
Richard Kahui Waikato (12)
Ma’a Nonu Wellington (58)
Conrad Smith Wellington (48)
Sonny Bill Williams Canterbury (7)
Israel Dagg Hawke’s Bay (7)
Zac Guildford Hawke’s Bay (6)
Cory Jane Wellington (24)
Mils Muliaina Waikato (97)
Isaia Toeava Auckland (31)
The squad, which will be captained by 30–year–old All Blacks captain Richie McCaw at his third Rugby World Cup, is made up of 16 forwards and 14 backs, and with 1,133 Test caps between them, is the most experienced All Blacks squad ever assembled.
Five of the team’s leading players, McCaw, first five–eighth Daniel Carter, hooker Keven Mealamu, fullback Mils Muliaina and lock Ali Williams, will be taking part in their third consecutive Rugby World Cup tournament, while seven will be playing in their second tournament – hooker Corey Flynn, midfielder Ma’a Nonu and lock Brad Thorn played in the 2003 campaign; while prop Tony Woodcock, halfback Andy Ellis, centre Conrad Smith and outside back Isaia Toeava played in Rugby World Cup 2007.
All Blacks Coach Graham Henry said: “Firstly, I would like to congratulate all those players selected. It’s an incredibly exciting time for the team and a unique opportunity to represent New Zealand at home. The players will be facing the ultimate rugby challenge – playing for the most coveted trophy in world rugby, the Rugby World Cup.
“At the same time I want to pay tribute to those players who have missed out on selection. It was an incredibly difficult process; all the players who missed selection are not only outstanding players but special people. We are close as a group which made this selection all the more difficult.”
2011 All Blacks who have missed selection include wings Hosea Gear, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Ben Smith, loose forward Liam Messam, prop Wyatt Crockett and lock Jarrad Hoeata. Henry said they would be included in a pool of back–up players to cover for any injuries during the tournament.
Commenting on the make–up of the squad, Henry said: “Generally, this team has been selected on current form. We believe there is a good balance; a blend of experienced All Blacks –with nine players who have played more than 50 Tests – while at the other end of the scale we have seven players who have played fewer than a dozen Tests who bring youthful enthusiasm to the side.
“There is also a balance in the fact that we have players who are specialists in their position while others have utility value and can cover a number of positions, so we have the players to cover any possibilities which may be thrown up during the tournament.”
One other feature of the squad is the selection of Blues and North Harbour lock Anthony Boric, who was not considered for All Blacks selection earlier this year after suffering a foot injury during the Super Rugby Finals Series. Boric returns to rugby this week in North Harbour’s provincial rugby match against Wellington.
Henry said the All Blacks squad was excited to be playing in front of their home fans.
“We have been receiving fantastic support from New Zealanders, we know the country is getting excited by what lies ahead – there is a real buzz around – and the players are really looking forward to soaking up the off–field atmosphere with our home fans.”
The All Blacks squad is currently in Brisbane preparing for the final match of the Tri Nations against Australia at Suncorp Stadium this Saturday.
The squad in Brisbane is as follows:
Forwards: John Afoa, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Kieran Read, Brad Thorn, Adam Thomson, Samuel Whitelock, Ali Williams, Tony Woodcock and Victor Vito.
Backs: Daniel Carter, Jimmy Cowan, Israel Dagg, Andy Ellis, Zac Guildford, Richard Kahui, Cory Jane, Mils Muliaina, Ma’a Nonu, Colin Slade, Conrad Smith, Isaia Toeava, Piri Weepu and Sonny Bill Williams.
After the Bledisloe Cup Test, the All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad will fly home for its official unveiling in New Zealand at a media event in Auckland on Monday, 29 August.
The players will then spend several days at home with friends and family before flying around the country on Friday 2 September for the All Blacks Coming To A Town Near You visit to small–town New Zealand. Eleven towns will be hosting groups of players on the day giving their residents the chance to spend some time with the All Blacks before Rugby World Cup kicks off.
The team will then re–assemble in Auckland to prepare for the tournament’s opening match against Tonga on Friday September 9.The All Blacks are in Pool A at Rugby World Cup and their other Pool matches are against Japan (Friday 16 September, Hamilton), France (24 September, Auckland), and Canada (Sunday 2 October, Wellington).