All Blacks looking at 'new faces'
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The All Blacks may be without their Crusaders starts at a two-day training camp in Christchurch, but they are happy with the new faces in the squad.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen named an All Blacks 'wider training group' for the camp, ahead of the Rugby Championship.
Players from the Crusaders - who face the Lions in the Super Rugby Final in Johannesburg on Saturday - were obviously not considered for the squad.
The All Blacks squad for the Rugby Championship will be named on Monday, August 7.
The squad will then assemble in Auckland next Thursday, August 10, to prepare for the opening Bledisloe Cup Test of the Championship against Australia in Sydney the following Saturday, August 19.
Hansen said there were new faces involved because they had the opportunities to bring them in while the Crusaders were away in South Africa.
"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," he added.
Kane Hames was a destructive scrummager who caused problems for opponents and he was a good player around the ground, who carried well, as he showed when playing in Sydney last year. And he was probably third in line behind Joe Moody and Wyatt Crockett.
Richard Buckman was a utility player and when thought was going into World Cups he could play in multiple positions along with Charlie Ngatai and others.
"We don't know a lot about him from a personal point of view. We've not had him in any of our camps before, we've seen him play and we've liked what we've seen," he said.
French-bound centre Malakai Fekitoa hadn't been included in the camp, even though he is still available until the end of the season.
Hansen said he would be taking the place of someone they could learn more about, like Buckman.
Chiefs utility Damian McKenzie was being looked at as a flyhalf.
"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.
There was no clear third flyhalves at the moment behind Beauden Barrett and Lima Sopoaga, but they were aware Waikato were going to play McKenzie at flyhalf while he was a good goal-kicker as well and he had been in fine form at fullback.
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.