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Northampton’s Franks misses out as New Zealand aim for third straight World Cup
Coach Steve Hansen has picked a side stacked with young players including 19 tournament debutants.
A recent drop in form has seen Northampton Saints prop Owen Franks miss out on selection as New Zealand named the squad tasked to win an unprecedented third straight Rugby World Cup.
Franks, 31, will not contest his third tournament in Japan this year after a poor showing in his final season for the Canterbury Crusaders before signing with the Premiership Rugby side.
The tighthead, who has played 108 Tests for his country, was replaced in the front row by 24-year-old Atu Moli of the Waikato Chiefs.
Powerful centre Ngani Laumape, 26, and experienced back-rower Liam Squire, 28, also missed out on spots on the plane.
Coach Steve Hansen preferred four centres ahead of Laumape – Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Jack Goodhue and Ryan Crotty – with the latter three picked despite recent injuries.
Squire was not picked after injuries kept him out of Test rugby this year, with Hansen instead selecting one-cap flanker Luke Jacobson.
A dislocated shoulder suffered in New Zealand’s Rugby Championship draw with South Africa means lock Brodie Retallick, 28, will not play in pool matches in Japan but is expected to be passed fit for the knockout stages.
Richie Mo’unga has been named as the All Blacks’ starting fly-half, where the 25-year-old will continue his potent playmaking combination from the previous three Tests with full-back Beauden Barrett.
Interestingly, Hansen has also named three non-specialist fly-halves in centres Ryan Crotty and Jordie Barrett and half-back TJ Perenara.
Back-rower Kieran Read, 33, will lead the squad to his first World Cup as captain, with longstanding utility back Ben Smith, 33, picked as his deputy.
Read, Williams and lock Sam Whitelock will all be participating in their third iteration of rugby’s premier competition, but Hansen has overall preferred youth with 19 of the 31-man squad tournament debutants.
Hansen said: “This Rugby World Cup looks like being the most fiercely-contested yet with a large number of teams all believing they can win.
“This will bring possibly more pressure and expectation on them than ever before and it will be interesting to see who can and who can’t cope with it.”
New Zealand’s tournament begins against South Africa in Yokahama on September 21.