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Uncapped lock called into All Blacks squad for end-of-year tour

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

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Uncapped lock Josh Lord has been called into the All Blacks squad ahead of their upcoming end-of-year tour of the United States and Europe.

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The move comes as a surprise given the 20-year-old’s minimal experience at professional level, given he only made his Super Rugby debut for the Chiefs this year and has just five appearances at that level.

Lord’s addition to the squad means he will be able to provide cover in the second row, where stocks have been depleted due to the departures of Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu.

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Ian Foster and Ardie Savea speak to media after All Blacks loss to Springboks
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Ian Foster and Ardie Savea speak to media after All Blacks loss to Springboks

Both players are set to return to New Zealand due to personal reasons, meaning Lord will join interim vice-captain Brodie Retallick and Tupou Vaa’i as the squad’s locks.

That trio will also be joined by returning veteran second rower Sam Whitelock, who is one of four capped All Blacks who will link back up with the squad after missing most, if not all, of the Rugby Championship for various reasons.

Accompanying Whitelock in returning to the squad is loose forward Shannon Frizell, experienced hooker Dane Coles and captain Sam Cane.

The return of Cane is a significant coup for the All Blacks given his standing as the team’s skipper and his lengthy injury spell that has seen him out of action since March.

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While he is yet to play a game since injuring his chest, Cane has been a prominent figure in a supporting capacity for Bay of Plenty and is likely to take to the field over the coming weeks for the Steamers before heading abroad.

New Zealand’s matches against the likes of the United States and Italy could be used as opportunities to ease Cane back into test rugby, and the same could also be said of Coles, whose calf injury has kept him sidelined since August’s Bledisloe Cup win over the Wallabies.

Whitelock, who hasn’t played since the second Bledisloe Cup clash after missing the rest of the Rugby Championship due to the arrival of his third child, is in a similar position in terms of game time.

Frizell, meanwhile, didn’t feature for the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship as he struggled to gain entry into Australia as a result of visa issues stemming from the three assault charges he faced earlier this year.

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However, those charges were dropped last month, freeing Frizell – who has been playing regularly for Tasman in the NPC – to return to the national set-up.

One noticeable absentee from the five players joining the All Blacks squad is Aaron Smith, whose partner isn’t expected to give birth to his second child until next month.

It means Smith will continue to play for Manawatu in the NPC, but Foster suggested those remaining in New Zealand could still be called into the All Blacks squad from afar if needed.

“From a physical point of view, we have come through the Rugby Championship really well,” he said via a statement.

“Therefore, we’ve decided to add fewer players than first anticipated for the next part of our 12-week tour. Also having the NPC continue into November means we are also able to bring over potential replacements, if required.”

Unable to return to New Zealand amid quarantine and border restrictions, the All Blacks are set to relocate from the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast on Tuesday before flying out for the United States next Sunday.

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