In Review

All Blacks squad: Key players who could destroy the Lions

Steve Hansen picks three brothers in a formidable 33-man party featuring some of the game's biggest stars

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has named his 33-man All Blacks squad in the Test series against the British and Irish Lions and, following the tourists' defeat at the hands of the Auckland Blues, "effectively warned Warren Gatland that he hasn't seen anything yet when it comes to the quality of New Zealand rugby". 

Gatland had tried to diminish the significance of that result by claiming that there was little difference in standard between Super Rugby sides and international teams.  

But "Hansen dismissed that notion out of court", reports Mick Cleary of the Daily Telegraph. Gatland must have been "trying a little bit of humour", said the New Zealand coach.

The squad is "pumped with talent", says Owen Slot of The Times. And the All Blacks "have also made the Lions' job notably harder by releasing some key players for the Highlanders and the Maori All Blacks, whom the Lions play next week". 

So who are the key players to look out for?

The Barrett brothers

Beauden, Scott and Jordie Barrett "are the first sibling trio to be named in the same All Blacks squad. They will be the fourth set of three brothers to play for the All Blacks following the Brownlie and Nicholls brothers in the 1920s and the Whitelocks in recent years", says Stuff.co.nz

At 20, utility back Jordie is the youngest of the trio. He is uncapped but is enjoying a sensational season with the Hurricanes in Super Rugby and could even oust full back Ben Smith. 

Beauden, 26, is the current All Black fly-half and the reigning world rugby player of the year. 

Scott, 23, plays for the Canterbury Crusaders in Super Rugby as a lock. He made his debut with the All Blacks last year.

Sonny Bill Williams

The powerful centre was a pivotal player in the Auckland Blues victory over the Lions and has fought his way back into contention for a starting berth in the All Blacks side. But former coach Graham Henry tells the Daily Telegraph he doesn't believe he will start the Tests.

But Williams has the "big game temperament", says Henry, and will be a terrifying figure to see coming off the bench.

Julian Savea

The All Blacks are so awash with backline talent that Malakai Fekitoa and Nehe Milner-Skudder didn't even make the squad. But there will always be room for 'The Bus', as Savea is known. 

The enormous 17-stone winger has 47 tries in 52 caps and will set out to trample his opposite number. He usually succeeds.  

"Savea is the Jonah Lomu of the current All Blacks team because he is massive, powerful and quick with a huge appetite for scoring tries," says Henry.

Kieran Read

The current New Zealand captain took over from Richie McCaw after the 2015 World Cup and inherited a side also shorn of the talents of Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Keven Mealamu. But under his guidance the All Blacks have, amazingly, got even better.  

He deserves credit for taking the team to "another level" says Henry. But the flanker is not just a good leader, he adds. He's a "fabulous" lineout player with great speed and handling around the ruck. The good news for the Lions is that Read is struggling with a thumb injury. The bad news is that Sam Cane makes an able deputy.

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