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No Surprises as All Blacks get midfield boost for year-end tour

SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT: New Zealand coach Ian Foster is sticking with the players who won the Rugby Championship and restored some pride to the wounded All Blacks, saying they “deserve” selection in the squad named on Sunday to tour the northern hemisphere.

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There are no surprises in the 35-man group for the four-Test tour, with experienced midfield back Anton Lienert-Brown the only member not to have played for the All Blacks this year.

Foster opted against including any uncapped players, saying the time for building depth ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup was over.

Instead, it was time to cement the combinations that began to form at the end of the Rugby Championship, when the team won their last three Tests to inject some positivity into what has been a turbulent year.

A historic home series loss to Ireland was followed by a heavy defeat to South Africa in Mbombela and a maiden loss on home soil to Argentina.

“We’ve really felt that that group has taken some lessons and really grown and finished really strong in that Rugby Championship,” said Foster, whose own position came under severe threat when the losses mounted.

“We believe they deserve an opportunity to keep developing those combinations.”

Foster and his fellow selectors – assistant coaches Joe Schmidt and Jason Ryan – welcomed the return from a shoulder injury of 56-Test veteran Lienert-Brown, who will fill a void left by long-term injuries to midfield backs Jack Goodhue and Quinn Tupaea.

“Anton’s very experienced, a seasoned player for us, played a lot of Test matches and we’ve got a lot of faith in him,” Foster said.

Joe Moody and Ethan Blackadder remained unavailable with injuries that have sidelined the two key Canterbury Crusaders forwards for most of this year.

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There was no room for utility back Damian McKenzie, who has been ineligible for Test duty until now under New Zealand’s regulations after playing in the Japanese club league earlier this year.

McKenzie is likely to be included on Monday in an All Blacks XV second-tier tour squad for matches against Ireland A and the Barbarians.

The All Blacks open their tour against Japan in Tokyo on October 29 before Tests on successive weekends against Wales, Scotland and England.

All Blacks squad:

Backs: Aaron Smith, Finlay Christie, Folau Fakatava, Richie Mo’unga, Beauden Barrett, Stephen Perofeta, David Havili, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Braydon Ennor, Jordie Barrett, Caleb Clarke, Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Leicester Fainga’anuku.

Forwards: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Codie Taylor, Dane Coles, Ethan de Groot, George Bower, Tyrel Lomax, Fletcher Newell, Ofa Tuungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Tupou Vaa’i, Scott Barrett, Sam Cane (captain), Ardie Savea, Shannon Frizell, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Hoskins Sotutu.

No Surprises as All Blacks get midfield boost for year-end tour

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