New era: Scott Barrett named All Blacks captain

New Zealand coach Scott Robertson has named Scott Barrett as captain for Tests against England and Fiji next month and included five uncapped players in his first All Blacks squad since taking over from Ian Foster.

Lock Barrett will have his centre brother Jordie and reigning World Player of the Year Ardie Savea to support him as vice-captains when the All Blacks take on England at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on July 6 and at Eden Park in Auckland on July 13. They will also play one Test against Fiji in San Diego on July 19.

Only one Highlander, Ethan de Groot, made the cut as the 32-man squad was announced tonight. 

Scott Barrett will become the 81st man to captain the All Blacks when the team take on England...
Scott Barrett will become the 81st man to captain the All Blacks when the team take on England and Fiji next month. Photo: Getty Images
"There are some great leaders in our group, but having that existing connection to Scott was important," said Robertson, who coached 30-year-old Barrett for seven years at the Crusaders, based in Christchurch. 

"He's tactically astute, he leads from the front, and he’s got the respect of the players and coaches."

Wallace Sititi earned the opportunity to win his first cap with a breakout season for the Chiefs but there was no place for his fellow No 8 Hoskins Sotutu, who had an outstanding season for Super Rugby Pacific champions the Blues.

Injuries to Cam Roigard and Samisoni Taukei'aho have opened up opportunities for Cortez Ratima and George Bell to get into the squad at halfback and hooker,  respectively.

Centre Billy Proctor was the fifth uncapped player named but his Hurricanes team mate Ruben Love - one of the standouts of the Super Rugby Pacific season at fullback - will join the 32-man squad only as injury cover.

Damian McKenzie and the third Barrett brother, Beauden, will vie for the first five-eighth position left vacant by Richie Mo'unga's departure for Japan at the end of last year's World Cup.

Stephen Perofeta was the only specialist fullback included in the squad but whichever one of McKenzie or Beauden Barrett misses out on the first five slot is likely to fill the No 15 shirt.

Halfback TJ Perenara and lock Patrick Tuipulotu both return to the squad after missing the World Cup campaign in France through injury.

Previous captain Sam Cane was not considered because of injury, the team said, suggesting the flanker could play a part in the Rugby Championship later this year despite announcing he would be quitting test rugby at the end of the season.

"As a coaching group, we are excited about the squad we’ve selected," Roberston added. "We know it's a group that can play the style of rugby we want the All Blacks to play in 2024."

The squad was selected by Robertson and assistant coaches Scott Hansen, Jason Holland, Leon MacDonald and Jason Ryan.

Barrett becomes the 81st man to captain the All Blacks in a Test, should he add to the 69 Test caps he has earned since his debut against Ireland in 2016. 

In a statement tonight, Barrett said leading the national side was a big responsibility. 

“When you think of the leaders who have gone before you, it’s quite humbling to be asked to captain the All Blacks, so it’s not something I took lightly.

"It’s a big responsibility, but I have two great leaders beside me in Ardie and Jordie, and I know we’ll have the full backing of the coaches."

Robertson said his long-standing relationship with Barrett as Crusaders head coach and player, respectively, was a factor in his choice of captain.

“There are some great leaders in our group, but having that existing connection to Scott was important ... Leadership is a shared responsibility and Ardie, Jordie and our wider leadership group will be crucial to how we come together and connect ahead of the first Test against England.

“As a coaching group, we are excited about the squad we’ve selected. We know it’s a group that can play the style of rugby we want the All Blacks to play in 2024.”

Robertson also congratulated uncapped players George Bell,  Pasilio Tosi, Cortez Ratima, Billy Proctor and Wallace Sititi, who at 21-years-old is the youngest player in the squad.

“It’s a proud moment for them and their families. They’ve earned their places through performance and consistency and it’s an exciting time in their careers. As coaches, we will get them ready so they can take their opportunity when it comes.”

The All Blacks Steinlager Low Carb Series squad will gather in  Wellington for the first time on Wednesday where they’ll be joined by hundreds of junior rugby players and guests to officially launch the 2024 Test season.

Blues lock Sam Darry, Hurricanes outside back Ruben Love and the Crusaders pair of prop George Bower and midfielder David Havili will also assemble with the squad as cover.


The first All Black squad for 2024 

Hookers: Asafo Aumua, Codie Taylor, George Bell

Props: Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Pasilio Tosi, Fletcher Newell, Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax, Tamaiti Williams

Locks: Scott Barrett (captain), Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa'i

Loose forwards: Ardie Savea, Luke Jacobson, Ethan Blackadder, Wallace Sititi, Samipeni Finau, Dalton Papali'i

Halfbacks: TJ Perenara, Finlay Christie, Cortez Ratima

First five eighths: Damian McKenzie, Beauden Barrett, Stephen Perofeta

Midfield: Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Billy Proctor

Outside backs: Sevu Reece, Mark Tele'a, Emoni Narawa, Caleb Clarke

• Players not not considered due to injury: Sam Cane, Will Jordan, Samisoni Taukei’aho and Cam Roigard.

- additional reporting ODT Online