Six newcomers named in All Blacks squad

by AAP

Coach Steve Hansen has named six uncapped players in his All Blacks squad to face Wales in June.

The outstanding Highlanders loose forward duo of Elliot Dixon and Liam Squire are joined by young Blues prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi, talented Hurricanes loose forward Ardie Savea and exciting young Chiefs teammates Damian McKenzie and Seta Tamanivalu.

Two further players will join the 32-strong squad as possible injury replacements, including another new face in Highlanders lock Tom Franklin for Sam Whitelock, in doubt after suffering a hamstring strain last week.

Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara was named as cover for Tawera Kerr-Barlow, who is recovering from a broken right hand.

Kieran Read takes over the captaincy from Richie McCaw, while Ben Smith has been named vice-captain.

Six uncapped players have been named in the All Blacks squad to face Wales in June. Photo: Getty Images

Hansen says despite the loss of a large group of experienced players, he's confident the All Blacks are as strong as ever.

"Many people, including our opponents, may be thinking we're vulnerable and are rebuilding," he said in Auckland on Sunday.

"We don't have that mindset.

"It's often said that when the tall trees that cast the largest shadows are cut down, the remaining smaller trees grow more rapidly.

"We believe we'll see players stand tall and take their game to a higher standard this season."

The squad, which has an average age of 25, comprises 18 forwards and 14 backs.

Players assembled in Auckland on Sunday to begin preparations for the first Test against Wales at Eden Park on June 11.

The second Test is in Wellington a week later with the third and final Test in Dunedin on June 25.

Hookers: Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Nathan Harris. Props: Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Ofa Tu'ungafasi. Locks: Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Patrick Tuipulotu, Samuel Whitelock. Loose forwards: Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read, Ardie Savea, Liam Squire.

Halfbacks: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Smith. Five-eighths: Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden, Lima Sopoaga. Centres: Ryan Crotty, Malakai Fekitoa, Charlie Ngatai, Seta Tamanivalu. Wingers/fullbacks: Israel Dagg, Damian McKenzie, Waisake Naholo, Julian Savea, Ben Smith.