All Blacks name bolters in squad to face Lions
ALL Blacks coach Steve Hansen has named rookies Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape in his Test squad to play Samoa and the British and Irish Lions.
The Hurricanes duo has been rewarded for outstanding Super Rugby form while Damian McKenzie, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Malakai Fekitoa, Steven Luatua, Matt Todd and Patrick Tuipulotu are among the big-name omissions.
Utility back Barrett, 20, has been named alongside brothers Beauden and Scott and are the first sibling trio to be named in the same All Blacks squad.
Laumape, 24, is a bullocking centre and former NRL player.
"Obviously, it's a very special occasion for the Barrett and Laumape families, with Jordie and Ngani being selected for the first time," Hansen said.
"Jordie has been in outstanding form, he has a skillset which is complete and has a great running and kicking game.
"Ngani too has been impressive throughout the Super season and has forced his way in through commanding performances.
"This has been by far the toughest team that we've had to select for some time and some players who are in very good form missed out, and we always feel for them.
"But as is the nature of Test rugby I'm sure a number of them will get an opportunity, if not in this series, then throughout the season."
The selectors have also named five players as injury cover: midfielder Jack Goodhue, hooker Liam Coltman and loose forwards Matt Todd, Vaea Fifita and Akira Ioane.
"We're really appreciative of the opportunity to play Samoa first up," Hansen said.
"The Samoan game is ideal in preparing us for the challenge that comes with the Lions.
"We see the Lions series as a great opportunity to gauge where we're at from both an individual and a team perspective.
"As always, we'll look forward to growing our game, as we know that if we don't keep improving, others will go past us.
"We're excited by the uniqueness that comes with playing a Lions series as it only comes around every 12 years."
Star hooker Dane Coles has been troubled by concussion issues in Super Rugby but has still been named in a squad captained by Kieran Read and including 1164 Test caps of experience and an average of 35 Test caps per player.
The All Blacks squad has a Super Rugby mix of five Blues players, six Chiefs, seven Hurricanes, 10 Crusaders and five Highlanders.The Samoa Test is next Friday at Eden Park, with the Lions series-opener on June 24 at the same venue.