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Seven newcomers in All Blacks squad

26/10/2008 12:36:30 PM Comments (0)

New Zealand named seven new All Blacks for their northern hemisphere rugby tour as selectors looked to shore up a squad depleted by retirements, injuries and defections.

The All Blacks depart on Monday on a gruelling tour of five Tests over five weeks starting with a one-off Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia in Hong Kong.

"The tour is big, a huge challenge, the biggest challenge that All Black rugby has had in the professional era as far as end-of-year tours are concerned - five Test matches on five consecutive Saturdays," said coach Graham Henry.

But he downplayed expectations of a completely successful Grand Slam tour of Great Britain and Ireland.

"The Grand Slam has been achieved three times before, two by the All Blacks and one by Australia, so it's not a given," he said.

"It's a very difficult assignment and I think we'd be silly to put all our eggs in a Grand Slam basket.

"I think we've got to keep that in perspective, and try and play well in each game, and if a Grand Slam results from that, that will be outstanding."

The new All Blacks include two props, Ben Franks and Jamie Mackintosh; three loose forwards Scott Waldrom, Kieran Read and Liam Messam, wing Hosea Gear and fullback Cory Jane.

Another four players - hooker Corey Flynn, locks Jason Eaton and Ross Filipo and wing Josevata Rokocoko - have been recalled to the squad.

Following next Saturday's clash with the Wallabies in Hong Kong the All Blacks then play Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England on consecutive Saturdays with a mid-week match against European champions Munster after the Irish Test.

From the All Blacks squads named earlier in the year, and which won the Tri-Nations series, there are eight names missing, with Leon MacDonald and Brendon Leonard not considered because of injury and prop Greg Somerville moving to England.

"We feel we have got the right balance with a nucleus of experienced All Blacks as well as seven new caps, who have shown their class in Super 14 and the Air New Zealand Cup," Henry said.

Canterbury, who won the Air New Zealand Cup interprovincial championship beating Wellington 7-6 in Saturday night's final, have five players in the 35-man squad while Wellington have eight.

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