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Weepu dropped by All Blacks

New Zealand have selected uncapped scrum-half TJ Perenara ahead of veteran Piri Weepu in their squad for the Investec Rugby Championship.

Weepu, capped 71 times by the All Blacks, is one of four players involved in the Steinlager Series against France in June to be missing from this 28-man squad - prop Ben Afeaki, and loose forwards Victor Vito and Matt Todd the others, while Rene Ranger is out for personal reasons.

But while Weepu has been dropped, head coach Steve Hansen said it did not have to mean the end of his international career.

"Firstly, we would like to congratulate TJ on his selection in the All Blacks. He has been impressive over the last couple of years and we feel the timing is right to now bring him into the squad," Hansen said.

"On the flipside, it's always difficult and disappointing for players when they miss out on selection, particularly for players like Piri and Victor who have been involved in the team for a number of years. But we have made it clear what we expect from them and the door is certainly not closed if they can deliver on those expectations."

Captain Richie McCaw is back to add to his 116 caps following his recent break from the game, while Charlie Faumuina returns from a calf injury.

The upcoming series will pitch New Zealand against Australia, Argentina and South Africa, starting with the first Bledisoe Cup clash of the year against Australia in Sydney on August 17.

"As always, that opening Bledisloe Cup Test in Sydney is going to be a huge match," Hansen added.

"Whilst we were happy with what we achieved in the Steinlager Series in June, we will now be looking to build a greater understanding and greater execution of the detail within our game structure - and there is no better place to test yourself than in this competition. South Africa, Australia and Argentina will be even better than they were last year and we will have to be as well."

In addition to the 28 players selected, Wellington lock Jeremy Thrush and Blues pair Francis Saili and Counties Manukau will train with New Zealand while still appearing for their clubs, while Crusaders prop Joe Moody has been called up as injury cover for Wyatt Crockett who is to miss the start of the Championship with a knee injury.

New Zealand squad:

Forwards: Dane Coles, Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Tony Woodcock, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Samuel Whitelock, Sam Cane, Steven Luatua, Richie McCaw, Liam Messam, Kieran Read.

Backs: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Daniel Carter, Aaron Cruden, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Israel Dagg, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea, Ben Smith.


From Belfast Telegraph