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Six new caps in All Blacks squad for 2022 Steinlager Series against Ireland

Six new caps in All Blacks squad for 2022 Steinlager Series against Ireland

The 36-strong squad is as follows:
* denotes new cap

Forwards

Hookers
Dane Coles (Hurricanes, Wellington)
Codie Taylor (Crusaders, Canterbury)
Samisoni Taukei’aho (Chiefs, Waikato)

Props
Aidan Ross* (Chiefs, Bay of Plenty)
George Bower (Crusaders, Otago)
Nepo Laulala (Blues, Counties Manukau)
Ofa Tuungafasi (Blues, Northland)
Karl Tu’inukuafe (Blues, North Harbour)
Angus Ta’avao (Chiefs, Auckland)

Locks
Samuel Whitelock (Crusaders, Canterbury)
Brodie Retallick (Chiefs, Hawkes Bay)
Scott Barrett (Crusaders, Taranaki)
Josh Lord (Chiefs, Taranaki)
Tupou Vaa’i (Chiefs, Taranaki)

Loose Forwards
Pita Gus Sowakula* (Chiefs, Taranaki)
Sam Cane – Captain (Chiefs, Bay of Plenty)
Dalton Papalii (Blues, Counties Manukau)
Ardie Savea (Hurricanes, Wellington)
Akira Ioane (Blues, Auckland)
Hoskins Sotutu (Blues, Counties Manukau)

Backs

Halfbacks
Folau Fakatava* (Highlanders, Hawkes Bay)
Aaron Smith (Highlanders, Manawatu)
Finlay Christie (Blues, Tasman)

First five-eighths
Stephen Perofeta* (Blues, Taranaki)
Beauden Barrett (Blues, Taranaki)
Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders, Canterbury)

Mid-fielders
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck* (Blues, Auckland)
Quinn Tupaea (Chiefs, Waikato)
Jack Goodhue (Crusaders, Northland)
Rieko Ioane (Blues, Auckland)
David Havili (Crusaders, Tasman)

Outside backs
Leicester Fainga’anuku* (Crusaders, Tasman)
Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes, Taranaki)
Will Jordan (Crusaders, Tasman)
Caleb Clarke (Blues, Auckland)
Sevu Reece (Crusaders, Tasman)

In selecting the squad All Blacks Head Coach and selector Ian Foster said the first up challenge of the Steinlager Series with the Irish starting at a sold out Eden Park on 2 July was huge.

“This will be the biggest home series since the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour for the All Blacks. There are massive expectations all round and it will be immensely competitive.”

Foster along with fellow selectors Grant Fox and John Plumtree said this was an extremely difficult squad to select.

“We want to congratulate the six new caps in what will be a very special day for them and their families who I’m sure will be extremely proud of their achievements. We have a new group of exciting players who will be keen to make a difference in the All Black jersey.

“We would also like to congratulate Sam Cane on resuming his role as All Black captain after injuries kept him sidelined for much of last year.

“It’s also great to see Jack Goodhue back after his knee injury in 2020.

“We also know there’s disappointment for those players not selected and we feel for them at this time.

“You can often judge the strength of the All Blacks by the quality of the men who have missed out.”

Foster said there will be a training camp in Tauranga this week for the non DHL Super Rugby Pacific finalists with the full squad getting together first in Auckland and then in Northland from 20-24 June.

Unavailable for selection due to injury – Joe Moody, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ethan Blackadder.

Unavailable for selection due to New Zealand Rugby return to play criteria – Patrick Tuipulotu, Damian McKenzie.

2022 Steinlager Series

Saturday 2 July
All Blacks vs Ireland, 7.05PM (NZST), Eden Park, AUCKLAND

Saturday 9 July
All Blacks vs Ireland, 7.05PM (NZST), Forsyth Barr Stadium, DUNEDIN

Saturday 16 July
All Blacks vs Ireland, 7.05PM (NZST), Sky Stadium, WELLINGTON

New All Blacks Player Profiles

Pita Gus Sowakula

Pita Gus Sowakula is a powerful loose forward who made an impact as an injury replacement player for the Chiefs in 2018.

At 195 cm (6 ft 5), Sowakula excelled at basketball and was selected in the 2012 FIBA Oceania Under 19 Championships for Fiji and featured for the Otago Nuggets.

He was also a gifted rugby player and was named the most promising player at the Taranaki Rugby awards in 2017, two years after claiming a silver medal in basketball with Fiji at the 2015 Pacific Games.

His impressive performances in 2018 earned him a full-time spot in the Chiefs and since then has been a regular face in the match day 23. His performances in the 2022 DHL Super Rugby Pacific Season has seen many take note of the powerful number 8, who impressed with his work-rate and explosive ball carrying.

Aidan Ross

Bay of Plenty prop Aidan Ross was a member of the New Zealand Under-20 squad who took out the 2015 World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Italy.

In 2017, Ross was called into the Chiefs squad as injury cover and made his debut against the Western Force.

Ross captained and led Bay of Plenty to victory in the 2019 NPC Championship final and he continued his form through to the Chiefs 2020 season as a regular starter.

The 26-year-old has gone from strength to strength as a Super Rugby player in 2021 and 2022 and is known for his work-rate and ability to grow his game.

Leicester Fainga’anuku

The 22-year-old Crusader has had a blockbusting DHL Super Rugby Pacific season so far, with a final to come.

A product of the Nelson College First XV, Fainga’anuku was a young star picked to carry on a career in representative rugby having represented New Zealand Schools, Junior Crusaders, Crusaders Development XV and the New Zealand Under 20 side.

He made his provincial debut for Tasman in 2018 and earned a spot in the Crusaders line up against the Brumbies in 2019.

At 188 cm tall and 109 kg, he’s a versatile back who can play both midfield and wing and was a key part of the Tasman Mako team that went back-to-back in the 2019 and 2020 NPC Premiership.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is a former rugby league superstar, an NRL Premiership winner with the Sydney Roosters, and a Dally M Medalist with the Warriors.

Having made over 200 NRL appearances and 20 Tests for the Kiwis as a wing and fullback, Tuivasa-Sheck brings extensive experience back to rugby union.

Before heading to Sydney, Tuivasa-Sheck was a schoolboy rugby star with Otahuhu College and represented both the Blues Under 18s and New Zealand Schools.

This season however, the Blues midfielder is considered a DHL Super Rugby Pacific rookie, making his debut in Round Two with an eye-catching performance against the Hurricanes.

Tuivasa-Sheck has gone on to impress for the Blues throughout the DHL Super Rugby Pacific season with trademark speed, tackle breaks and electric footwork.

Stephen Perofeta

At 25 years old, Stephen Perofeta has already amassed an impressive set of rugby credentials.

The Whanganui Collegiate schoolboy played first-class rugby for Whanganui whilst still at school, earning selection to the Heartland XV that same year.

Touted as a player to watch from a young age, Perofeta made his Super Rugby debut in 2017, notably helping guide the Blues to victory against the touring British and Irish Lions at Eden Park.

That same year saw Perofeta earn selection as a late call up to the New Zealand Under 20 side, where he started at first-five as the team defeated England in the final of the World Rugby Under 20 Championship.

Accomplished at both first-five and fullback, Perofeta is now in his sixth season of Super Rugby, with strong performances in both 2021 and 2022.

A key cog in Taranaki’s undefeated 2021 Bunnings Warehouse NPC Championship season, Perofeta won the Duane Monkley Medal as the NPC’s best player.

Perofeta has found his home at fullback throughout the 2022 DHL Super Rugby Pacific season, forming a strong partnership with first-five Beauden Barrett in one of the competition’s most exciting backlines.

Folau Fakatava

Folau Fakatava has been earmarked as a player to watch since standout performances at schoolboy level with Hastings Boys’.

Known for an exciting running game, accurate pass and strong defence, the 22-year-old is widely considered one of the country’s most exciting young players.

The halfback has been central to Hawke’s Bay’s recent success, including helping his side earn promotion to the NPC Premiership in 2020. Outstanding form throughout that campaign saw Fakatava awarded the Duane Monkley Medal as the NPC’s best player.

After making a promising start to the Highlanders 2021 campaign, Fakatava was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury.

Returning for the Highlanders in the 2022 DHL Super Rugby Pacific has seen Fakatava back to his best, forming a formidable halfback combination with Aaron Smith.

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