31 May 2010

Four new caps in All Blacks to face Ireland, Wales

6:23 am on 31 May 2010

The first All Blacks squad for the year's been named with four new players, two siblings and no Rodney Soi'oialo.

The Wellington No.8's on Barbarians duty but his international future remains up in the air, after coach Graham Henry said Soi'oialo may still be needed for the June Tests against Ireland and Wales.

Two brothers - props Ben and Owen Franks - are part of the 26-strong squad - the first siblings selected together since the Mauger brothers in 2001.

The new caps are Manawatu first-five eighth Aaron Cruden, Hawke's Bay fullback Israel Dagg, Wellington flanker Victor Vito and Auckland midfielder Benson Stanley.

Stanley's the lone specialist second five named in the injury-enforced absence of the incumbent Ma'a Nonu so he's likely to see game time in the first Test against Ireland on June 12th in New Plymouth.

He says he didn't hear the announcement and only started thinking he may have a chance after text messages from friends.

Cruden was also taken by surprise, he'd only thought he was a chance for the New Zealand Maori side in their centenary year and now he's an All Black instead, which is an "unreal feeling".

Joe Rokocoko makes a return on the wing, one of just two specialists named alongside Zac Guildford.

Cory Jane's regarded as more of a wing than a fullback by Graham Henry too, though obviously can cover the 15 jersey if Mils Muliaina is injured.

The All Blacks side also includes just two halfbacks, the incumbent Jimmy Cowan and Piri Weepu, who's also covering No.10. The selectors often name three No.9s.

The Maori team's also been named with 11 debutants to face Ireland, England and a New Zealand Barbarians side.

Auckland's Rene Ranger was unable to be included as his whakapapa only extends back to Cook Island Maori, not Aotearoa tangata whenua.

Stephen Brett's included in the Maori side, as is Luke McAlister.