AN All Blacks squad featuring uncapped players Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Dane Coles will use Tests against Scotland and Ireland as a trial for the second half of their European tour, according to coach Steve Hansen.
The 32-man squad named on Monday was signposted for several weeks, with Hansen having indicated he wanted to take a full strength group, rewarding the performances of the players who have been unbeaten in 10 Tests this year.
Every player will be used in the first two Tests, against Scotland in Edinburgh on November 11 and Italy in Rome on November 17.
Hansen said the six-day turnaround and travel commitments between those two fixtures prompted the tactic.
He will then settle on a full-strength team for the two remaining Tests, against Wales in Cardiff on November 24 and England in London on December 1.
“The message the players will be getting is that the top 22 in-form players will be selected to play Wales and then again for the England match,” Hansen said.
Australian-born livewire Kerr-Barlow, 22, impressed for the Super Rugby champion Chiefs and wins the nod as third halfback with Aaron Smith and Piri Weepu ahead of the frequently capped Andy Ellis, who Hansen had felt the need to contact.
“Andy knows that the door’s not shut for him. He’s shown us that he’s got the grit and determination to want to be there.”
Likewise, Chiefs hooker Hika Elliot was the unlucky omission who cleared the way for Hurricanes rake Coles, 25, to tour.
“We know a lot about Hika, the door’s not closed on his opportunities in the future,” Hansen said.
“But we do need to find out a little bit more about Dane Coles.”
With Kerr-Barlow and Coles set to debut during the first two Tests, it brings the number of new caps under Hansen this year to nine.
“This tour is about continuing to develop those nine men and making them feel more and more comfortable,” Hansen said.
At the other end of the experience scale, Ali Williams is recalled as a fourth lock, having played little rugby this year. The 75-Test veteran injured himself midway through the series against Ireland in June.
Flanker Adam Thomson is selected even though he is yet to commit to New Zealand rugby beyond this year. There is speculation Thomson may be on the verge of signing with a Japanese club.
Players not considered for selection due to injury include lock Anthony Boric (neck), five-eighth Colin Slade (leg) and centre Richard Kahui (shoulder).
Hansen will want to complete an unbeaten first year in charge since succeeding World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry.
All Blacks tour squad:
Backs: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Julian Savea, Hosea Gear, Conrad Smith, Ben Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Tamati Ellison, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Piri Weepu, Tawera Kerr-Barlow
Forwards: Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Victor Vito, Adam Thomson, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Ali Williams, Tony Woodcock, Owen Franks, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Wyatt Crockett, Keven Mealamu, Andrew Hore, Dane Coles.