There are seven new caps and several returnees in the first All Blacks squad of 2020.
Head coach Ian Foster and his fellow selectors named a 35-strong group on Sunday morning.
Five of the news faces were in the forwards, including Blues No 8 Hoskins Sotutu and prop Alex Hodgman, rising Chiefs lock Tupou Vaa’i and lock Quinten Strange and loose forward Cullen Grace from the Crusaders.
Outside backs Caleb Clarke of the Blues and Will Jordan of the Crusaders were the uncapped backs.
The squad also featured the return of Blues flanker Akira Ioane, Hurricanes hooker Asafo Aumua, Blues prop Karl Tu’inukuafe and Hurricanes prop Tyrel Lomax.
Foster said he was excited at the calibre of the players selected and had enjoyed working with assistant coach John Plumtree as part of the new selectors group.
“Plums, Foxy and I have been as excited as everyone at the rugby we have seen in what has been an incredibly difficult year for everyone.
“The result is that we can now announce a team that is rich in experience and a little battle-hardened after the Rugby World Cup, but forward looking with the inclusion of a number of new players. We’re delighted with the balance of the group and we look forward to whatever the challenges of 2020 throw at us.
“I’d also like to again formally congratulate Sam Cane on the captaincy. We’ve already been excited and impressed with his work and I know he is determined to do a great job for his team and his country.”
Three players weren’t considered due to injury, including prop Atu Moli, lock Scott Barrett and midfielder Ngani Laumape.
Foster said, like all rugby fans, the team was waiting for the All Blacks schedule to be finalised, with SANZAAR to confirm the Test programme in due course.
“Like everyone else, we’re impatient to know what is happening, but we fully understand all the variables at play and we remain confident that there’ll be something for fans to look forward to in the not-too-distant future.”
Foster said, in the meantime, the All Blacks would return to their provincial sides for the opening weekend of New Zealand’s premier domestic competition.
The 35-strong squad
Sam Cane – captain