The All Blacks selectors dropped long-serving wing Doug Howlett and recalled Joe Rokocoko in their 26-man squad named on Sunday for the Tri-Nations rugby series with Australia and South Africa.
Howlett is the most notable omission from the squad which also excludes Jono Gibbes and Campbell Johnstone from the squad which successfully whitewashed the British and Irish Lions in the Test series which ended here Saturday.
Rokocoko returns to the All Blacks after showing signs of regaining form in the recent New Zealand Juniors tour of Australia and again when playing for Auckland against the Lions last week.
Other intriguing selections include uncapped prop John Afoa, flyhalf Luke McAlister, who made his debut in the third Test against the Lions, and halfback Piri Weepu, who fills the gap left by departing veteran Justin Marshall.
“The immediate challenge is to maintain the level of performance that the squad achieved against the British and Irish Lions,” said coach Graham Henry.
“At the same time, our strategy going forward is to expand the number of players who are ready and able to play Test match rugby. This is a chance for younger players like John Afoa and Piri Weepu to take their next steps.”
The four All Blacks not available for the final Lions Test because of injury — Daniel Carter, Aaron Mauger, Leon MacDonald and Richie McCaw — have all been selected.
Hooker Anton Oliver was not considered because of an ongoing calf injury, and Gibbes was said to have a foot injury.
The All Blacks’ first Tri-Nations match is against South Africa at Cape Town on August 6.
All Blacks squad: John Afoa (Blues), Dan Carter (Crusaders), Jerry Collins (Hurricanes), Rico Gear (Crusaders), Carl Hayman (Highlanders), Marty Holah (Chiefs), Chris Jack (Crusaders), Byron Kelleher (Chiefs), Sione Lauaki (Chiefs), Luke McAlister (Blues), Richie McCaw (Crusaders), Leon MacDonald (Crusaders), Aaron Mauger (Crusaders), Keven Mealamu (Blues), Mils Muliaina (Blues), Joe Rokocoko (Blues), James Ryan (Highlanders), Sitiveni Sivivatu (Chiefs), Conrad Smith (Hurricanes), Greg Somerville (Crusaders) Rodney So’oialo (Hurricanes), Tana Umaga (Hurricanes) captain, Piri Weepu (Hurricanes), Ali Williams (Blues), Derren Witcombe (Blues), Tony Woodcock (Blues).