WELLINGTON: New All Blacks coach Ian Foster has started his rebuild for the 2023 Rugby World Cup with seven new faces in his first squad although the team has yet to have any matches confirmed for this year.
Loose forwards Hoskins Sotutu and Cullen Grace, locks Quinten Strange and Tupou Vaa'i, prop Alex Hodgman and outside backs Caleb Clarke and Will Jordan were named on Sunday in the squad.
Prop Karl Tu'inukuafe and outside back Damian McKenzie have also earned recalls after battling with injury last year, while uncapped loose forward Akira Ioane and hooker Asafo Aumua have also forced their way back into the squad.
Both Ioane and Aumua have played non-test matches.
Flyhalf Josh Ioane, who made his test debut off the bench last year, was not included with McKenzie expected to cover the position if Beauden Barrett or Richie Mo'unga get injured, All Blacks selector Grant Fox said.
The All Blacks are tentatively scheduled to play Australia in test matches next month and possibly the southern hemisphere's Rugby Championship, also involving South Africa and Argentina, in a November-December window.
A resurgence of the novel coronavirus in both Australia and New Zealand and cases of COVID-19 in the Pumas squad, however, have put the matches under a shadow.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)