Veteran Kieran Read back for All Blacks as Crusaders dominate squad

Richie Mo'unga of the Crusaders kick s the ball during the Super Rugby Final 2018

Richie Mo'unga of the Crusaders kick s the ball during the Super Rugby Final 2018

There were no surprises in the All Blacks squad named Monday for the Rugby Championship with the selectors going for experience over form with an eye on next year's World Cup.

Fit-again captain Kieran Read has been restored to the All Blacks and will lead a powerful squad in twin Bledisloe Cup Tests this month.

Read only returned to the field following back surgery a year ago after the June test series against France but was nearly back to his best in the Canterbury Crusaders' Super Rugby final against the Lions on Saturday.

Captain Kieran Read and lock Brodie Retallick return from injury, while the injured Dane Coles and Sonny Bill Williams were also included.

Crusaders prop Tim Perry, who played two non-test matches on New Zealand's tour to the northern hemisphere past year, and Chiefs scrumhalf Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi are the only uncapped members of the squad announced Monday.

Laumape and hooker Liam Coltman will join the squad as injury cover for Williams and Coles.

Hansen added that similar debate had been circulating before the previous Rugby World Cup in England when Barrett was arguably playing better than All Blacks great Dan Carter.

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Hansen listed New Zealand's most immediate target as winning the Bledisloe Cup, a trophy contested annually with Australia and which has been held by the All Blacks for the past 15 years. "We lost to Australia the last time we played them, so no doubt they'll have a lot of self-confidence and are worthy of starting as favorites".

Hansen, who had tried to dampen down the volume of that opinion last week, said on Monday while Mo'unga was playing well, Barrett's proven ability at the test level would sway his decision for the opener against Australia in Sydney on August 18.

The two major casualties are Hurricanes forwards Jeff Toomaga-Allen and Vaea Fifita, who have been forced out by Tim Perry and Jackson Hemopo. "We won't be in any rush to shift him", Hansen said.

"He's (Mo'unga) played one test match and he's got competition from the specialist five-eighth in Beauden Barrett, who's played 64 (tests)", Hansen told reporters in Christchurch after he named the squad.

"One of the positives of having such a talented pool to select from is that it creates natural competition, not only for spots in the Rugby Championship squad, but also the matchday 23".

"We have to build slowly with Richie and build his experience but in the meantime we have got a player in Beauden who has been the best player in the world for the last two years.

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