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Uncapped players in All Blacks squad

All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter was not considered as he continues his sabbatical.

FILE: All Blacks do the Haka. Picture: EWN

WELLINGTON - New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has included uncapped lock Patrick Tuipulotu and centre Malakai Fekitoa in his 31-man squad for the three-test series against England, which starts next week.

Scrumhalf TJ Perenara is a third player hoping to make his debut in tests in Auckland, Dunedin and Hamilton over the next three weeks, although he was involved in the national set-up last year.

There were also recalls for loose forwards Jerome Kaino and Victor Vito but flyhalf Dan Carter was not considered as he continues his sabbatical.

Tuipulotu's call-up came after test second row Luke Romano was ruled out of the rest of the Super Rugby season when he suffered a lower leg injury last month.

At 1.98m and 121 kgs, the hulking 21-year-old Tuipulotu has proved more than a handful for Super Rugby defences in some impressive outings for the Auckland Blues this season.

Livewire Tongan-born centre Fekitoa, who turned 22 last month, is an equally powerful threat and has scored six tries for the Otago Highlanders this season.

"It's an exciting time for them and their families and they can be rightly proud of their selection. They have worked hard for it," Hansen said in a news release.

"We would also like to congratulate Jerome and Victor, who are returning after an absence from the group.

"In selecting our squad, once again we have tried to balance experience and youth with form in Super Rugby and proven performances in the All Black jersey."

Uncapped hookers Nathan Harris and Liam Coltman were, as expected, dropped after being included in the wider training squad but both will spend time with the squad as part of a "hooker apprentice programme".

Hansen said the world champions were not taking the England series lightly, even if the tourists were being forced to field a weakened side in next weekend's test at Eden Park because of the involvement of players in the climax of the club season.

"England have been the most improved side in world rugby in the last two years," he said.

"Their coach Stuart Lancaster has built depth in his side and a strong culture, so they will be a formidable opponent and one we are very excited about playing.

"Those who think England will be fielding a weak side in the first Test are completely underestimating the quality of depth in the England squad.

"Make no mistake, England have a very strong desire and belief that they can win this Series. Having said that, so do the All Blacks."

Squad:

Forwards - Keven Mealamu, Dane Coles, Charlie Faumuina, Tony Woodcock, Ben Franks, Wyatt Crockett, Owen Franks, Patrick Tuipulotu, Brodie Retallick, Dominic Bird, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Victor Vito, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read.

Backs - Tawera Kerr-Barlow, TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Ryan Crotty, Malakai Fekitoa, Cory Jane, Julian Savea, Israel Dagg, Ben Smith.