AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
WELLINGTON: The All Blacks on Sunday named seven new caps and threw a lifeline to out-of-form veterans Piri Weepu and Ali Williams in a 30-man squad for the Ireland Test series.
The first All Blacks squad to be chosen since they won the World Cup eight months ago, new head coach Steve Hansen admitted to mixing experience with promise for the three-match series that starts on June 9 in Auckland.
"We have selected a really balanced squad of experienced players who have played with distinction over a number of Tests, and a group of young players with huge potential," he said.
The new forwards include locks Brodie Retallick and Luke Romano, flanker Sam Cane -- who is seen as heir apparent to captain Richie McCaw -- and 20-year-old Ben Tameifuna, who started the year as a back-up prop at the Waikato Chiefs.
In the backs, fly-half Beauden Barrett, scrum-half Aaron Smith and wing Julian Savea are brought into the All Blacks for the first time.
The inclusion of Smith and Barrett is part of a mix that saved the 56-Test Weepu, who has struggled for form with the Auckland Blues and was not required for their Super 15 match against the Chiefs on Saturday.
Barrett is the third fly-half behind Dan Carter and Aaron Cruden, but in talking up Weepu, Hansen praised his ability to kick goals and fill in at pivot if required, effectively giving the squad four number 10s.
However, there are only two scrum-halves with the in-form Andy Ellis sidelined to make way for Smith, who possesses a bullet-like pass, and Weepu.
Last year, Weepu starred for the All Blacks in the World Cup at fly-half after the first choice selections Carter and Cruden were injured.
In the off-season he quit the Wellington Hurricanes and moved to the Blues, were he started the season unfit, overweight and faded from their regular starting line-up.
Williams and Ma'a Nonu are other members of the misfiring Blues whose All Blacks selection appears to fit with Hansen's preference for "proven performers" -- even though they are struggling in the worst-performing New Zealand Super 15 side.
Six established internationals including Cory Jane, Richard Kahui and Jerome Kaino were not considered because of injury.
Forwards: Sam Cane, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Richie McCaw (captain), Keven Mealamu, Kieran Read, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Ben Tameifuna, Adam Thomson, Victor Vito, Sam Whitelock, Ali Williams, Tony Woodcock
Backs: Beauden Barrett, Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Israel Dagg, Tamati Ellison, Hosea Gear, Zac Guildford, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Piri Weepu, Sonny Bill Williams
Hooker Hika Elliot has been named as standby for the injured Mealamu.
June 9, 1st Test, at Auckland
June 16, 2nd Test, at Christchurch
June 23, 3rd Test, at Hamilton