Hansen rewards Blues

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has selected several uncapped Blues players in his training group.

Hansen confirmed 38 names and this included many from the potent Blues backline.

The Highlanders, despite only winning one match in this year’s Super Rugby competition, have six players in the group.

An obvious area of weakness is at hooker where Hansen has selected veterans Andrew Hore and Keven Mealamu and Canes Dane Coles. Options are limited and it certainly is a concern for New Zealanders.

No overseas-based players were considered, as it is NZRFU policy.

Among the uncapped players invited to the training session are: Blues stars Frank Halai, Steven Luatua, Charles Piutau and Francis Saili, Chiefs prop Ben Afeaki, the Hurricanes trio of TJ Perenara, Brad Shields and Jeff Toomaga-Allen, and the Crusaders duo of Dominic Bird and Tom Taylor.

Rene Ranger, another versatile Blues back, is also in the mix.

The champion Chiefs only have six players in the squad while the Hurricanes and Crusaders both have nine. The Blues have eight players and the struggling Highlanders six

All Blacks wider training squad:

Blues: Frank Halai, Steven Luatua, Keven Mealamu, Charles Piutau, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, Piri Weepu and Ali Williams.

Chiefs: Ben Afeaki, Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Messam and Brodie Retallick.

Hurricanes: Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, Ben Franks, TJ Perenara, Julian Savea, Brad Shields, Conrad Smith, Jeff Toomaga-Allen and Victor Vito.

Crusaders: Dominic Bird, Daniel Carter, Wyatt Crockett, Israel Dagg, Owen Franks, Kieran Read, Luke Romano, Tom Taylor and Samuel Whitelock.

Highlanders: Hosea Gear, Andrew Hore, Ma’a Nonu, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith and Tony Woodcock.