Live updates: Rugby World Cup 2019 - Coach Steve Hansen names All Blacks squad for title defence

12:40pm - This is the official start of the Rugby World Cup trail for the All Blacks - and for Newshub.

We'll have live updates of the match against Tonga on September 7, as well as all the big matches during the tournament in Japan.

We'll produced the The Cup 19 podcast twice a week, including tomorrow's reflection on the selections  with Sky Sport commentators Richard Turner and Willie Lose, and the selection process itself with selector Grant Fox.

We'll have a big team on the ground in Japan - join us for the journey.

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12:31pm - And that's the end of formalities.

With no players in sight, the three selectors will now mingle with media for one-on-ones.

Apparently, some players will be made available this afternoon for reaction, while all the squad will tour New Zealand on a promotional 'All Blacks to the Nation' tour tomorrow.

Those players will fly to Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga, Gisborne, Christchurch and Queenstown, and will also spend time in Matamata, Mt Maunganui, Rolleston and Wakatipu. 

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12:28pm - Hansen talks about the importance of supporting Pacific rugby, noting there are several of Polynesian heritage in the All Blacks.

The All Blacks play a warm-up game against Tonga on September 7.

He also takes a question from schoolboy Sam, who asks whether Damian McKenzie would have made the team if he was fit.

Yep, says Hansen, he would have been considered as an outside back or inside back.

Thanks Sammy.

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12:26pm - Selector Grant Fox is also at the top table. He admits 31 players is not enough, but it's the number they've been given to stick to.

"We won't just use 31 - everyone here knows there will be injuries."

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12:24pm - Hansen is asked about his own coaching form and whether he has improved over the past four years. He defers to his assistant.

Foster backs his boss up.

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12:23pm - Hansen talks about the pressure on the All Blacks to win, but flips it around, saying other teams will struggle with that pressure.

It's something the All Blacks are used to.

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12:19pm - Hansen is evasive over who he sees as the big threats in Japan.

"The ones that haven't had it before..."

That suggests Wales and Ireland? England, Australia, South Africa and Wales have all won the Cup before.

France haven't...

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12:16pm - Foster admits the midfield was the area the selectors spent the most time discussing.

"It's a position where we've got a lot of options," he says.

Hansen has identified Jordie Barrett, TJ Perenara and Ryan Crotty as his back-up first-fives, with Ben Smith at a pinch.

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12:14pm - Hansen insists Mo'unga's shoulder injury, suffered during the Bledisloe Cup rematch, was progressing well, but he's still uncertain for the last remaining warm-up game against Tonga.

"If it was a World Cup fina, he would probably go."

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12:07pm - The obvious talking points from this selection are...

- Jordie Barrett makes the cut

- Liam Squire is not there

- Atu Moli replaces Owen Franks

- Crotty in, Laumape out

- Luke Jacobson chosen after just 10 minutes of international rugby

Hansen admits Franks simply isn't mobile enough for the modern game, while those ahead of him were.

The selectors discussed a return with Squire, but the upshot of that conversation was that he would stand by as a replacement player if needed.

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Noon - The names, read out by NZ rugby chair Brent Impey, are...

Beauden Barrett

Jordie Barrrett

Scott Barrett

George Bridge

Sam Cane

Dane Coles

Liam Coltman

Ryan Crotty

Jack Goodhue

Rieko Ioane

Luke Jacobson

all blacks squad
Photo credit: Newshub.

Nepo Laulala

Anton Lienert-Brown

Atu Moli

Joe Moody

Richie Mo'unga

TJ Perenara

Kieran Read (captain)

Sevu Reece

Brodie Retallick

Ardie Savea

Aaron Smith

Ben Smith

Angus Ta'avao

Codie Taylor

Matt Todd

Patrick Tuipulotu

Ofa Tu'ungafasi

Brad Weber

Sam Whitelock

Sonny Bill Williams

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11:57am - After the names are read out in alphabetical order, Hansen will host a Q&A session with media, but there will apparently be no players around... which iskind of weird.

Among the gathered journos is a veritable 'who's who' of rugby media - Newshub has Ross Karl, John Day, Andrew Gourdie and The Cup 19 podcast host Ollie Ritchie on deck, along with Mike McRoberts.

Hansen, Impey and assistant coach Ian Foster have entered...

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11:53am - The stage is set for the announcement and the press conference looks a lot more upmarket than usual, with Spark Sport making its official debut as rightsholder for the Rugby World Cup.

There's no end of apprehension about Spark's ability to stream the tournament, especially after another Optus failed to deliver during last year's Football World Cup.

This will be a major test and the world will be watching. 

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11:50am - There's a massive traffic jam in the midfield, where five really strong candidates are competing for probably four spots.

As he often is, Ryan Crotty has been injured through the Rugby Championship campaign, but has proved a reliable performer whenever he's on the park.

His big selling point is experience and his organisational skills.

Sonny Bill Williams has also been plagued with injury this year, but Hansen has maintained that his fitness is the only question mark over his selection.

Ngani Laumape in action against Argentina
Ngani Laumape in action against Argentina. Photo credit: Photosport

He's been nursed back into action through club and provincial play, and showed his readiness against Australia at Eden Park.

Anton Lienert-Brown has probably been the most consistent midfielder performer through Super Rugby and Rugby Championship this year, and can't possibly miss out.

That leaves blockbusting Ngani Laumape as the possible odd man out - it's probably between him and Crotty for the last spot.

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11:40am - How many first-fives will Hansen & Co. name in their 31?

The All Blacks have worked with Damian McKenzie for a couple of years, developing him as the back-up No.10 to Barrett, so his season-ending injury really threw a spanner in the workds.

The selectors further muddied those waters, when they decided to play Beauden Barrett at fullback and Richie Mo'unga as starting first-five, leaving no natural replacement on the bench.

Richie Mo'unga kicks for the All Blacks
Richie Mo'unga kicks for the All Blacks. Photo credit: Photosport

Otago's Josh Ioane is a prospect, but way too inexperienced to trust at this level yet... so do they pick him anyway and hope they don't need him?

Do they pick just Barrett and Mo'unga, and fly Ioane to Japan if one of them fall over? Remember the first-five injury toll in 2011?

Do they play someone like Jordie Barrett (or Ben Smith or TJ Perenara) in the 10-jersey against Namibia to give the specialists a rest?

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11:30am - Two others to promote their cause during that second Bledilsoe clash were wings George Bridge and Sevu Reece.

Both were simply outstanding, replacing established speedesters Rieko Ioane and Ben Smith, and have made it hard for the selectors to leave either of them out.

Out-of-form Ioane is still our top wing and Smith - like Franks - has been an automatic selection for so long, it's hard to see him missing out this time, even if he no longer starts.

Jordie Barrett in action for the All Blacks
Jordie Barrett in action for the All Blacks. Photo credit: Photosport

But that may leave utility Jordie Barrett as the odd man out. He hasn't quite nailed down his spot yet, and with brother Beauden the preferred fullback and Smith a worthy back-up, the longest Barrett may prove surplus to requirements.

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11:09am - Another incumbent that faces uncertain prospects is prop Owen Franks.

The veteran has been part of two triumphant World Cup campaigns and an automatic selection in the front row, whenever fit.

But he was the scapegoat for an ordinary scrummaging effort in the Bledisloe Cup drubbing from the Wallabies and in the return game, the All Blacks eight (and seven, for a while) simply dominated without him.

Replacement Nepo Laulala seemed to shore up the scrum and may have thrust himself into the starting line-up at Owens' expense.

All Blacks strongman Owen Franks in the gym
All Blacks strongman Owen Franks in the gym. Photo credit: Newshub.

Chances are Owens will still be in the squad today, but with a reduced role.

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10:58am - Perhaps the biggest talking point from this squad announcement may be the fate of flanker Liam Squire, who made himself unavailable for the Rugby Championship to repair body and mind, after an injury-ravaged Super Rugby campaign.

But whispers over the past few days suggest he has put his hand up for Japan.

Squire has been the incumbent in the No.6 jersey, but in his absence, coach Steve Hansen has experimented - succcessfully - with a dual-openside line-up, featuring both Sam Cane and Ardie Savea.

Savea, who has previously come off the bench, was one of the form players during Super Rugby and has continued that into the international arena, so leaving him on the bench no longer seems wise.

Where does that leave Squire?

Liam Squire celebrates during an All Blacks game
Liam Squire after during an All Blacks game. Photo credit: Photosport

Where does that leave other fringe loose forwards like Matt Todd and newcomer Luke Jacobson, who could be the nearest thing to a bolter in this squad?

Does Squire just walk back into the squad, as of right?

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Kia ora, good morning and welcome to Newshub's live coverage of the All Blacks squad announcement for this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Several other teams have already announced their players, but this is the moment everything elese this year has been building up to - who's in and who's out?

NZ Rugby chair Brent Impey is expected to read out 31 names to cover four pool encounters and - hopefully - four knockout games, culminating in the final on Saturday, November 19.

Coach Steve Hansen has experimented to a certain extent during the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup games over the past couple of months, but the last victory over Australia threw a few curveballs, with some established stars sliding down the pecking order.

The big announcement is scheduled for noon, but we'll break down some of the key points to look out for in the build-up.

 

 

Pre-match read: All Blacks veteran under threat - John Hart

With coach Steve Hansen less than 24 hours from naming his 31-man World Cup squad, another former All Blacks boss thinks one of the most experienced players could be in danger of missing the cut.

John Hart fears Owen Franks may be left in the lurch, with the rise of Atu Moli offering a more versatile skillset.

Versatility that could also benefit another All Black fighting for World Cup inclusion.

Hansen hasn't been afraid to make some tough calls in 2019, bringing the axe down on several front-line players for the deciding Bledisloe Cup test.

Hart believes that move suggests 108-test veteran Franks may miss selection.

"Nepo Lauala stepped up and Atu Moli has played well," Hart told Newshub. "I think maybe he's under threat."

If Hansen and All Blacks selectors opt for experience, that could save Franks, but the broader skill set of Atu Moli has impressed Hart.

 

 

 

"If they go for mobility and ball-carrying, then probably Moli goes. I think it comes down to experience versus mobility."

 

 

 

Experience could also see Ryan Crotty fight his way into a packed midfield, a crucial inclusion according to Hart, even though he's been sidelined for two months with a broken thumb.

"They'll go with Ryan Crotty, because of his ability to vary the game. Laumape and Sonny Bill bring certain things, but you want variety."

 

 

 

 

Hart thinks it would be tough to overlook a now-available Liam Squire.

"He obviously brings something that they're looking for, which is that hardness and the carrying of the ball. If he was available and fit then, yes, you'd certainly take him."

On Wednesday, we'll find out if Hansen agrees.

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