2 Jul 2015

All Blacks call up three more

6:15 pm on 2 July 2015

The All Blacks have called three more players into their squad to prepare for next week's historic Test against Manu Samoa in Apia.

Chiefs and Taranaki midfielders Charlie Ngatai and Seta Tamanivalu, and the versatile Crusaders and Canterbury utility back Tom Taylor, join the squad as cover for the Hurricanes and Highlanders players involved in the Super Rugby final.

Taylor has played three Tests for the All Blacks, while Ngatai and Tamanivalu are both uncapped.

Crusaders utility Tom Taylor

Crusaders utility Tom Taylor Photo: Photosport

Taylor's been picked as backup to first fives Dan Carter and Colin Slade, as well as for his versatility.

Ngatai is the captain of the Maori All Blacks, who are due to play Fiji on July 11, three days after the Test in Apia between Steve Hansen's side and Samoa.

Hansen says they've been keeping a close eye on Ngatai for a while, and in most other countries he would've already experienced Test rugby by now.

Charlie Ngatai is all concentration as he kicks for the Chiefs

Charlie Ngatai is all concentration as he kicks for the Chiefs Photo: Photosport

Tamanivalu, last year's provincial player of the year for Premiership winners Taranaki, featured little for the Chiefs this season, stuck behind Sonny Bill Williams, as well as new All Blacks squad member Ngatai, and the versatile Andrew Horrell.

But Hansen's expecting to see much more of Tamanivalu, who he says is a very strong midfielder with a lot of pace - though it might not be this World Cup season.

"Probably disappointing this year in the Super competition but didn't get too many opportunities with what was a pretty handy midfield in Charlie and Sonny, so... when you make up your bench he probably didn't bring the versatility that someone like Horrell did so, he's in behind two guys who are both here as well so perhaps we'll see more of him next year."

Seta Tamanivalu in action for Taranaki

Seta Tamanivalu in action for Taranaki Photo: Photosport

Hansen had named 41 players in an extended squad for the five Tests ahead of the World Cup, but also called in five others to cover for injuries and for any shortfall in the event of a New Zealand side making the Super Rugby final.

The squad was then depleted by the absence of 17 players from the Hurricanes and Highlanders, involved in Saturday's Super Rugby final.

Halfback Brad Weber, utility back George Moala and prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi were all named to train with the squad, while halfback Andy Ellis and prop Nepo Laulala were called in to cover for the injured Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Charlie Faumuina.

Hansen admits the Chiefs and Tasman utility back James Lowe was also on their selection radar, but Lowe's had a shoulder operation and isn't available.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Hansen says it's both excitement and trepidation for the new players who're joining up with the team for the first time.

"When you come into the All Black environment, it's overwhelming - whether you're the coach, the manager or a player because all of a sudden it's, 'wow, I'm in here now and I've got to actually do the business."

"But at the same time it's exciting because it's something that people have always wanted to do, and, you know particularly the players... you'd always, as a player, that's the ultimate goal and when you reach that, it's just the beginning. You know, you get here and you realise, it's just the beginning, so it's a bit of both (excitement and trepidation)."

Hansen says the All Blacks environment is a family one, and the senior players are really good with the new caps in helping to welcome them and look after them.

Meanwhile, Hansen says the fullback Israel Dagg and utility back Charles Piutau aren't likely to play the full Test in Apia, as both continue to build up fitness after recovering from injuries.

The team to take on Manu Samoa will be named on Monday, New Zealand time. The All Blacks will take 29 players to Samoa later that day for the Test.

The All Blacks from the Hurricanes and Highlanders, who are playing Saturday's final in Wellington, will assemble in Christchurch after the weekend to prepare for the opening Rugby Championship Test against Argentina.