All Blacks coach Ian Foster has set the team a clear target for 2021.

“We want to get our performance at a consistent level that we can really challenge and be the number one team in the world.”

The first step towards reclaiming a title they have not held for almost two years has been taken.

Named in Auckland on Monday night, the first All Blacks squad of 2021 includes 36 names.

A big but necessary number, according to Foster.

“We’ve got four tests in a row in September, we could have up to five in a row in November and we’ve just come off a big Super Rugby competition.

“Really we’ve decided we’re going to need a bigger number next year to get through the year, so we may as well bring people in now.”

Four of which were new faces.

Crusaders utility forward Ethan Blackadder, Blues halfback Finlay Christie, Highlanders prop Ethan de Groot and Chiefs midfielder Quinn Tupaea all earned their first All Blacks selections for next month’s home tests against Tonga and Fiji.

After being called in as injury cover last year, but not playing, Crusaders prop George Bower also featured.

A player at the other end of the experience scale, 122-test veteran and captain in the absence of injured Sam Cane, Sam Whitelock said the senior players would be as inviting as they could.

“It is daunting when you’re in a new environment.

“They’ll know the guys they’ve played with in Super Rugby but it’s on us to go and spark a convo, find out who they are, what drives them and let the natural connection flow from there.”

And it was not just his new All Blacks team-mates Whitelock was looking forward to seeing.


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