Steve Hansen’s bumper squad of 51 features eight uncapped players, with seven of them named in a 19-man wider group specifically assembled to prepare for the match against Japan.
A few names surprised fans, but Steve Hansen’s track record has proven that he’s rarely wide of the mark when it comes to player selection.
Here are the new faces you need to look out for on Saturday and moving forward. You can watch the game throughout Asia live on RugbyPass.
22-year-old tighthead prop Tyrel Lomax shapes as an integral piece of the All Blacks’ front row in the near future.
Last year Lomax made his debut for the New Zealand Maori and has enjoyed a fine season with Tasman in the Mitre 10 Cup.
The prop possesses elite size, comparable to new All Blacks teammate Ofa Tu’ungafasi, and has been compared to 45-test stalwart Carl Hayman.
He also has his father’s international pedigree to boot, as the son of former Kiwis rugby league prop John Lomax.
I wouldn’t have been upset if George Bridge had been included in the main All Blacks squad.
READ MORE: Making the case for George Bridge
Bridge stands out in several key areas. He’s brilliant under the high ball, an elusive runner and ranked as one of the better defensive outside backs in Super Rugby in 2018.
He has already shown the All Blacks what he can do, scoring two tries against them while lining up for the Barbarians in 2017.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the squad, 22-year-old first-five eighth Brett Cameron’s selection speaks volumes of his standing in the eyes of the selectors.
The diminutive Cameron admitted himself that his selection came completely out of the blue. He has just six minutes of Super Rugby action under his belt with the Crusaders but has helped Canterbury to consecutive Mitre 10 Cup finals, winning in 2017.
Cameron is notably the only first-five in the 19-man wider training group, though Canterbury and Crusaders teammate Richie Mo’unga may find himself staying with the group in Japan despite scintillating Super Rugby form.
Cameron finished 2018 ranked second in the Mitre 10 Cup in terms of points scored with 121 and kicked for goal with a success rate of 80%.
Put simply, Dalton Papalii is a freak.
Although he’s the only uncapped player named in the All Blacks’ 32-man squad, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Steve Hansen let the young loose forward get his international feet wet against Japan next weekend.
Papalii’s performances for Auckland this season have been nothing short of spectacular. The flanker has stuffed the stat sheet with astronomical tackle figures. His tackle accuracy of 97% might be the only thing more impressive than his competition-leading 169 made tackles.
READ MORE: The Rise of Dalton Papalii
In his last five starts for Auckland, his tackle counts were 23, 29, 22, 21 and 20, with just six misses all season.
After turning 21 earlier this month, Papalii shapes as a key figure in the All Blacks for years to come.
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