All Blacks drop Perenara, have revenge in mind against Ireland

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Captain Sam Cane says the All Blacks will have a point to prove after on Monday naming six uncapped players in their squad for next month's three-Test series against ireland.

The 36-player squad was notable for the inclusion of former rugby league international Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and the omission of seasoned scrum-half TJ Perenara.

New Zealand coach Ian Foster remained largely loyal to the squad which ended 2021 with emphatic losses to Ireland and France on their northern hemisphere tour.

"This will be the biggest home series since the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour for the All Blacks," Foster said.

"There are massive expectations all round and it will be immensely competitive."

The 2023 Rugby World Cup in France is just 15 months away and Foster is keen to try his new selections against Ireland, who have won three of their last five Tests against the All Blacks, but have never won in New Zealand.

"We're incredibly excited, I think you can feel there's a bit of newness in the squad, with six new boys who I think have really played their way in," said Foster, who is looking to assemble a squad capable of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup for a record fourth time.

"But there's also pragmatism, with a couple of selections that are about making sure we have the equipment we need to play well against Ireland."

Cane expected memories of last November's stinging 29-20 defeat in Dublin to give an added edge to training once preparations begin for the first Test in Auckland on July 2.

"Everyone who was involved in that game last year, once we reassemble, that will resurface and there will be real hunger and drive," said Cane. "It's going to be a massive series."

- Strength in depth -

Foster highlighted the game-breaking ability of players such as centre Tuivasa-Sheck, a 29-year-old former schoolboy standout who has shone in Australia's National Rugby League for the last decade and was crowned its best player in 2018.

Tuivasa-Sheck captained New Zealand's rugby league team, before returning to rugby union last year.

He will be one of 22 players in the All Blacks squad involved in Saturday's Super Rugby Pacific final between Auckland Blues and Canterbury Crusaders.

"There's a couple of positions where we've brought people in because we want to see them in the environment," Foster said.

"Roger would certainly fit into that mix. While he's earned his spot, he's got a lot of learning to do now."

The other uncapped players are backs Leicester Fainga'anuku, Stephen Perofeta and Folau Fakatava, along with forwards Aidan Ross and Pita Gus Sowakula.

Tongan-born Fakatava and Finlay Christie are included as back-ups for scrum-half Aaron Smith, with 78-Test veteran Perenara and the experienced Brad Weber both omitted in what Foster described as his toughest selection call.

"You can often judge the strength of the All Blacks by the quality of the men who have missed out.

"We have had five nines (scrum-halves) playing really well but we just feel that Folau and Finlay offer something a little bit different. It's a chance to see how we incorporate that into an All Blacks game."

The bulk of the squad, 22 players, are provided by the Auckland Blues and Canterbury Crusaders who will contest the Super Rugby Pacific final on Saturday.

Three experienced Test candidates are unavailable because of injury -- prop Joe Moody, flanker Ethan Blackadder and centre Anton Lienert-Brown.

Japan-based pair Damian McKenzie and lock Patrick Tuipulotu were ineligible as neither had been involved in Super Rugby, but both could come into contention for the Rugby Championship beginning in August.

The second Test will be played in Dunedin on July 9 with the third in Wellington on July 16.

New Zealand squad: Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett, Scott Barrett, George Bower, Sam Cane (capt), Finlay Christie, Caleb Clarke, Dane Coles, Jack Goodhue, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Folau Fakatava, David Havili, Akira Ioane, Reiko Ioane, Will Jordan, Nepo IRLLaulala, Josh Lord, Richie Mo'unga, Dalton Papalii, Stephen Perofeta, Sevu Reece, Brodie Retallick, Aidan Ross, Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Hoskins Sotutu, Pita Gus Sowakula, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Codie Taylor, Angus Ta'avao, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Quinn Tupaea, Ofa Tuungafasi, Sam Whitelock, Tupo Vaa'i.

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