11 Pacific players named in All Blacks squad for the Rugby World Cup
By Soana ‘Aholelei
11 players of Pacific descent will be donning the All Blacks jersey for the Rugby World Cup in Japan next month.
At the much-anticipated All Blacks world cup squad naming at Eden Park today, head coach Steve Hansen acknowledged the multi-cultural make-up of his team.
“It is exciting having the Polynesian influence that we’ve got in our squad,” Hansen says. “They bring something special to our game in New Zealand along with the Māori heritage players.”
Four of the squad’s five Props are from the Pacific. They include Samoans Nepo Laulala and Angus Ta’avao, and Tongans Atu Moli and Ofa Tu’ungafasi. Also in the pack are Samoans Patrick Tuipulotu at lock and loose forward Ardie Savea.
In the backs are Tongan-Samoan five-eighth Richie Mo’unga, Samoan speedster Rieko Ioane and exciting Fijian Sevu Reece. Samoans Anton Lienert-Brown and Sonny Bill Williams also tie up the mid-field spots, making it Sonny Bill’s third rugby world cup squad.
The squad have a promotional road-trip coming up before their last pre-world cup test of the year against Tonga in Hamilton next week. Expected to name his strongest side for the match, coach Hansen says it’s important to support the game in the Pacific, and spoke of the work that’s already being done in New Zealand to support Pacific players “through coaching, through developing a lot of players here in New Zealand that end up going and playing for the various sides”.
“Occasionally we get one or two of their players too who come over here to go to school, but that seems to be happening in England, France everywhere else as well. So you’re obviously developing a lot of players, but it’s important because if we want rugby to grow then we have to have a strong Pacific.”
The Full All Blacks Squad is:
Dane Coles (32, Hurricanes / Wellington, 64)
Liam Coltman (29, Highlanders / Otago, 5)
Codie Taylor (28, Crusaders / Canterbury, 44)
Nepo Laulala (27, Chiefs / Counties Manukau, 19)
Joe Moody (30, Crusaders /Canterbury, 40)
Atu Moli (24, Chiefs / Tasman, 2)
Angus Ta’avao (29, Chiefs / Taranaki, 7)
Ofa Tuungafasi (27, Blues / Auckland, 29)
Scott Barrett (25, Crusaders / Taranaki, 30)
Brodie Retallick (28, Chiefs / Hawke’s Bay, 77)
Patrick Tuipulotu (26, Blues / Auckland, 24)
Samuel Whitelock (30, Crusaders / Canterbury, 111)
Sam Cane (27, Chiefs / Bay of Plenty, 63)
Luke Jacobson (22, Chiefs / Waikato, 1)
Kieran Read (33, Crusaders / Counties Manukau, 121) – Captain
Ardie Savea (25, Hurricanes / Wellington, 38)
Matt Todd (31, Crusaders / Canterbury, 20)
TJ Perenara (27, Hurricanes / Wellington, 58)
Aaron Smith (30, Highlanders / Manawatu, 86)
Brad Weber (28, Chiefs / Hawke’s Bay, 2)
Beauden Barrett (28, Blues / Taranaki, 77)
Richie Mo’unga (25, Crusaders / Canterbury, 12)
Ryan Crotty (30, Crusaders / Canterbury, 44)
Jack Goodhue (24, Crusaders / Northland, 9)
Anton Lienert-Brown (24, Chiefs / Waikato, 37)
Sonny Bill Williams (33, Blues / Counties Manukau, 53)
Jordie Barrett (22, Hurricanes / Taranaki, 11)
George Bridge (24, Crusaders / Canterbury, 4)
Rieko Ioane (22, Blues / Auckland, 26)
Sevu Reece (22, Crusaders / Waikato, 2)
Ben Smith (33, Highlanders /Otago, 79)
The squad features 17 forwards and 14 backs with the following positional breakdown: three hookers, five props, four locks, five loose forwards, three halfbacks, two first five-eighths, four midfielders and five outside backs.
The All Blacks will again be captained by Kieran Read, who will be taking part in his third Rugby World Cup, together with lock Samuel Whitelock and Sonny Bill Williams. Nine players will be going to their second Tournament, while 19 are going to their first.