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Sunday October 20, 2013 MYT 9:07:02 AM
Sunday October 20, 2013 MYT 9:07:02 AM
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Luke Whitelock's versatility has helped him emulate older brothers Sam and George by becoming an All Black after the Canterbury loose forward was selected on Sunday for New Zealand's northern hemisphere tour in November.
Whitelock, who had been involved in the wider training squad this year, was selected ahead of players like Brad Shields and World Cup winner Victor Vito for his ability to play blindside flanker as well as number eight, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen told reporters in Dunedin.
"We are looking for someone that can support Kieran Read in that position but has utility value as well," Hansen said of the 1.90 metre-tall, 22-year-old Whitelock.
"We don't have someone putting their hand up and saying I am a genuine number eight if we lose Kieran Read."
Winger Frank Halai, prop Joe Moody and lock Dominic Bird have also been named in the side after also having extended training squad roles with the team this year.
Uncapped scrumhalf TJ Perenara (ankle stress fracture) and lock Luke Romano (groin) have also returned to the squad after they were both ruled out earlier this year with injuries.
The decision to pick five locks, because Romano was unlikely to be fully fit from his injury until after the second match on tour, had meant that Wellington duo Shields and Vito were unlucky to have missed out, Hansen said.
Wellington loose forward Ardie Savea, the younger brother of winger Julian, has been included as an 'apprentice' player for the tour to get a taste of the All Blacks environment.
"He is not being named as an All Black," Hansen said.
"He will travel with us and clearly if we had an injury at number seven he would be available to play for us but he's more primarily joining us because we want to introduce him to the way of the All Black life.
"With Matty Todd injured we have got an opportunity to bring in a young player.
"Ardie is a player we think is destined to be an All Black at some stage if he continues to improve and grow his game.
"We felt giving him this opportunity would enhance this."
The All Blacks have already said they will split the squad for the first week to give younger players an opportunity to prove their worth in the buildup to their first non-World Cup test against Japan on November 2.
Nine senior players, expected to include captain Richie McCaw and injured flyhalf Daniel Carter, will fly directly to Paris to prepare for the match against France on November 9 with the rest of the squad joining them after the Tokyo clash.
"The aim of the tour is to further develop our game structures, our skills sets and our individual players," Hansen said.
"We will be looking to use the tour to take ourselves beyond where we are at the moment."
After going through their test season unbeaten so far, the third match on the schedule against England will hold special significance for Hansen and the team.
Last December, a fired-up England side destroyed the All Blacks 38-21 in their final match of the season at Twickenham.
Hansen said the defeat, while leaving a bitter taste in their mouths, would only serve as motivation for the world champions, who are now on another 10-match winning streak.
The final game of the tour is against Ireland in Dublin on November 16. New Zealand will then host England next June in a three-match series.
New Zealand squad:
Forwards - Dane Coles, Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Owen Franks, Ben Franks, Joe Moody, Tony Woodcock, Brodie Retallick, Jeremy Thrush, Dominic Bird, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, Steven Luatua, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Luke Whitelock
Backs - Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden, Dan Carter, Tom Taylor, Ma'a Nonu, Ryan Crotty, Francis Saili, Israel Dagg, Frank Halai, Cory Jane, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea, Ben Smith.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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