All Blacks v Ireland: Coach Ian Foster names six debutants for three-test series in July

Rugby league convert Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is poised to become New Zealand's latest double international, named among six All Blacks debutants to face Ireland in three home tests in July.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster has included the former NZ Warriors captain and NZ Kiwis star among the midfielders in his 36-man squad, as he searches for the players he needs for next year's Rugby World Cup in France.

Since switching codes late last year, Tuivasa-Sheck has been a standout performer at second-five for the Super Rugby Pacific-leading Blues and joins teammate Stephen Perofeta as a new cap in the national squad.

Crusaders back Leicester Fainga'anuku, Highlanders halfback Folau Fakatava, Chiefs prop Aidan Ross and No.8 Pita Gus Sowakula are the other newcomers.

Named 2021 NPC Player of the Year for Taranaki, Perofeta has build on his reputation, deputising for Beauden Barrett at first-five, while making the starting fullback spot his own for the Blues.

Fainga'anuku has impressed for the Crusaders and Tasman in recent seasons, cover wing and centre positions, while Ross and Sowakula have been part of a powerful Chiefs scrum. 

Tonga-born Fakatava only became eligible for All Blacks selection, after World Rugby changed residential criteria this year. 

Chiefs flanker Sam Cane has regained the All Blacks captaincy, which he lost during an injury-plagued 2021 campaign, when he only joined the squad for the late northern hemisphere swing.

Notable omissions include veteran halfbacks TJ Perenara and Brad Weber, props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax, loose forward Luke Jacobson, and backs George Bridge and Braydon Ennor.

After losing three tests last year, pressure is on Foster to right the ship, starting with this series against the Irish, who defeated the All Blacks at Dublin last November.

"This will be the biggest home series since the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour for the All Blacks," Foster said. "There are massive expectations all round and it will be immensely competitive.

Pita Gus Sowakula scores a try for the Chiefs
Pita Gus Sowakula scores a try for the Chiefs. Photo credit: Photosport

"We have a new group of exciting players who will be keen to make a difference in the All Black jersey. We would also like to congratulate Sam Cane on resuming his role as All Black captain, after injuries kept him sidelined for much of last year.

"We also know there's disappointment for those players not selected and we feel for them at this time. You can often judge the strength of the All Blacks by the quality of the men who have missed out."

Prop Joe Moody, loose forward Ethan Blackadder and midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown were unavailable through injury, while lock Patrick Tuipulotu and back Damian McKenzie have not fulfilled playing criteria, after a season in Japan.

All Blacks to face Ireland

Props: Ofa Tuungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Karl Tu'inukuafe, George Bower, Aidan Ross, Angus Ta'avao

Hookers: Codie Taylor, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Dane Coles

Locks: Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Tupou Vaa'i, Josh Lord

Loose forwards: Sam Cane (c), Ardie Savea, Dalton Papalii, Akira Ioane, Hoskins Sotutu, Pita Gus Sowakula

Halfbacks: Aaron Smith, Finlay Christie, Folau Fakatava

First-fives: Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo'unga, Stephen Perofeta

Midfield: Jack Goodhue, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Quinn Tupaea, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Outside backs: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Caleb Clarke, Jordie Barrett, Leicester Fainga'anuku

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