Veteran skipper Read back for All Blacks

Veteran skipper Read back for All Blacks

Hansen named a 35-man squad for the Rugby Championship with hooker Liam Coltman and centre Ngani Laumape included as cover for the injured Dane Coles and Sonny Bill Williams.

There are 10 players from the freshly-crowned Super Rugby champion Crusaders, including Read, who hasn't played a Test since last November when he suffered a serious back injury.

Injured forwards Kane Hames, Nepo Laulala, Atu Moli and Jordan Taufua were fringe players not considered for selection.

While Read took part in the final weeks of the Crusaders' charge to a ninth title, Coles hasn't played at any level since rupturing knee ligaments nine months ago.

Laumape and hooker Liam Coltman train with the squad as injury cover for Williams and Coles.

Hansen said that a similar debate had been circulating before the previous Rugby World Cup in England when Barrett was arguably playing better rugby than All Blacks great Dan Carter.

Hansen, who had tried to dampen down the volume of that opinion last week, said on Monday while Mo'unga was playing well, Barrett's proven ability at the test level would sway his decision for the opener against Australia in Sydney on August 18. Hurricanes duo of prop Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen and flank Vaea Fifita missed out as well.

Player of the Super Rugby final Richie Mo'unga lifts the trophy
Player of the Super Rugby final Richie Mo'unga lifts the trophy

"He's (Mo'unga) played one test match and he's got competition from the specialist five-eighth in Beauden Barrett, who's played 64 (tests)", Hansen told reporters in Christchurch after he named the squad.

"Both of them are very good rugby players, our job is to maximize the talent we've got and over time you will see Richie get more test matches I'm sure".

"Everyone wanted us to drop Dan Carter", Hansen said.

"While last year was about growing depth, this year is more about growing our game and our player combinations within that", Hansen said.

"One of the positives of having such a talented pool to select from is that it creates natural competition, That competition should remove any feelings of complacency within our playing group".

"All of this means that this year's Investec Rugby Championship will be a well-contested competition and we'll need to once again raise the bar across the board when it comes to our preparation, our skill levels and how we handle pressure".

Forwards: Dane Coles, Nathan Harris, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Tim Perry, Kar Tu'inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, Shannon Frizell, Jackson Hemopo, Kieran Read (captain), Ardie Savea, Liam Squire, Luke Whitelock.

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