Auckland Blues trio included in squad for three-match series against France
Last Updated: 02/06/13 9:05am
Steve Hansen: Not taking France lightly in the upcoming three-Test series
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has selected six uncapped players in a 32-man squad for the upcoming Test series against France.
Auckland Blues trio Charles Piutau, Francis Saili and Steven Luatua have all been included for the first time, along with Waikato Chiefs prop Ben Afeaki and Wellington Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush.
The final newcomer - Canterbury's Matt Todd - is named as an injury replacement as his Crusaders team mate Sam Whitelock has a broken finger and will miss the first two matches.
"We have looked to take the opportunity to introduce six new players and the selectors would like to congratulate those young men on being selected," Hansen said.
"It's now about consolidating and narrowing our focus for this three-match Test series against what will be a very good French side."
"That means we have introduced 15 new players to our environment in the last 12 months thus accomplishing one of our goals of having a mixture of experience and enthusiastic new faces.
"It's now about consolidating and narrowing our focus for this three-match Test series against what will be a very good French side. They are a team never to be underestimated.
There is a recall after a three-year absence for Auckland centre Rene Ranger while Aaron Smith and Ma'a Nonu, who were both dropped to the bench by the Otago Highlanders on Saturday, retain their places.
Kieran Read will captain the side in the continued absence of flanker Richie McCaw, who is still on a sabbatical from the game.
The first Test takes place next Saturday in Auckland, the same venue where the All Blacks defeated Les Bleus 8-7 in the 2011 World Cup final.
New Zealand squad: Dane Coles, Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu, Ben Afeaki, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Tony Woodcock, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Jeremy Thrush, Samuel Whitelock, Sam Cane, Steven Luatua, Liam Messam, Kieran Read (captain), Victor Vito, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Smith, Piri Weepu, Beauden Barrett, Daniel Carter, Aaron Cruden, Ma'a Nonu, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, Conrad Smith, Israel Dagg, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea, Ben Smith, Matt Todd (injury replacement).