New Zealand Rugby
Muliaina to skipper All Blacks
May 31, 2009
Mils Muliaina of the All Blacks runs in to score a try during the rugby test match between New Zealand and Samoa at Yarrows Stadium in New Plymouth New Zealand on September 3, 2008.
Muliaina's Chiefs side were mauled by the Bulls in Saturday's Super 14 final © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Luke McAlister | Mils Muliaina
Tournaments/Tours: Tri Nations | France tour
Teams: New Zealand

Veteran fullback Mils Muliaina has been named captain of an All Blacks squad that features three new caps to face France and Italy in home test matches next month.

Two Crusaders tight forwards are among the new caps -- lock Isaac Ross and prop Wyatt Crocket -- along with flanker Tanerau Latimer, who played for the Chiefs in their 61-17 loss to the Bulls in the Super 14 final at Pretoria this morning.

Muliaina, who captained the Chiefs, takes the leadership for the first time from Richie McCaw who is unavailable with a knee injury. Captain option Rodney So'oialo hasn't been named in the squad, with the veteran Hurricanes No.8 struggling with a neck injury and in need of rehabilitation according to coach Graham Henry.

"Rodney has had an incredibly demanding Super 14 season, starting in 13 of the Hurricanes matches this year and that follows several years of intense, top-level rugby," Henry said. "We are taking a proactive approach and giving him some time to recover and rehab."

Henry said So'oialo would return to the All Blacks for the Tri-Nations series.

Players not considered due to injury include McCaw (knee), Chiefs winger Sitiveni Sivivatu (shoulder), Blues lock Anthony Boric (toe), Crusaders halfback Andy Ellis (ribs), Crusaders hooker Corey Flynn (forearm), Hurricanes loose forward Scott Waldrom (back) and Canterbury first five-eighth Daniel Carter (Achilles).

Meanwhile, Hurricanes and Hawke's Bay lock Bryn Evans and Canterbury and Crusaders prop Owen Franks have been called into the wider All Blacks training squad as lock and prop cover. The All Blacks play France at Dunedin on June 13 and Wellington on June 20 before hosting Italy at Christchurch on June 27.

In related news, Luke McAlister will make his return to New Zealand rugby in the Junior All Blacks squad named to contest the Pacific Nations Cup starting next month.

World class playmaker McAlister, who recently ended an 18-month stint with English club Sale, is likely to return to the All Blacks for the Tri-Nations series but the New Zealand Rugby Union board has deemed he must first prove his worth for what is effectively the New Zealand B team.

He will probably play first five-eighth in most of the matches against Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Japan although Crusaders playmaker Colin Slade has also been named in the 26-man squad selected by co-coaches Colin Cooper and Ian Foster.

"We have got a talented squad of established international players plus up and coming players and Ian Foster and I are excited about the campaign ahead," Cooper said. "The Junior All Blacks have a proud unbeaten record in the Pacific Nations Cup and this year's team will be keen to maintain that record."

Hurricanes and Wellington prop John Schwalger and Chiefs and Taranaki lock Craig Clarke haven't been named in the squad but will assemble with the Junior All Blacks as respective cover for Franks and Evans, who are assembling with the All Blacks.

One feature of the squad is the inclusion of two sets of brothers -- Owen Franks and older brother Ben of the Crusaders and Jacob Ellison and older brother Tamati of the Hurricanes. The Pacific Nations Cup tournament will be played in Samoa and Fiji from June 12 to July 3.

All Blacks rugby squad for home tests against France (two) and Italy next month:

Backs: Mils Muliaina (captain), Cory Jane, Joe Rokocoko, Rudi Wulf, Richard Kahui, Conrad Smith, Isaia Toeava, Ma'a Nonu, Stephen Donald, Piri Weepu, Jimmy Cowan, Brendon Leonard

Forwards: Jerome Kaino, Tanerau Latimer, Adam Thomson, Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Brad Thorn, Ali Williams, Isaac Ross, John Afoa, Neemia Tialata, Tony Woodcock, Wyatt Crockett, Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu.

Junior All Blacks squad for the Pacific Nations Cup tournament starting in June:

Backs: Israel Dagg (Hawke's Bay), Lelia Masaga (Counties Manukau), Rene Ranger (Northland), Hosea Gear (Wellington), Robert Fruean (Wellington), Anthony Tuitavake (North Harbour), Tamati Ellison (Wellington), Ryan Crotty (Canterbury), Luke McAlister (North Harbour), Colin Slade (Canterbury), Alby Mathewson (Wellington), Chris Smylie (North Harbour)

Forwards: Sione Lauaki (Waikato), George Whitelock (Canterbury), Karl Lowe (Wellington), Victor Vito (Wellington), Bryn Evans (Hawke's Bay), Jason Eaton (Taranaki), Jeremy Thrush (Wellington), Tom Donnelly (Otago), Owen Franks (Canterbury), Ben Franks (Tasman), Jacob Ellison (Wellington), Jamie Mackintosh (Southland), Aled de Malmanche (Waikato), Hikawera Elliot (Hawke's Bay)


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