Julian Savea dropped by All Blacks for Rugby Championship

Julian Savea has been dropped from the New Zealand squad for the Rugby Championship

The Hurricanes wing, who turns 27 on Monday, has been a mainstay for the All Blacks since making his Test debut in 2012, scoring 46 tries in 54 matches - just three short of Doug Howlett's record.

But Savea has struggled to find his best form this year and only featured in one of the three instalments of the drawn British and Irish Lions series.

He, along with Crusaders flanker Matt Todd, has been overlooked for selection by Steve Hansen this time around, while Nepo Laulala and Nehe Milner-Skudder return to the squad.

Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane and Ngani Laumape retain their places among the backs.

"Firstly, we congratulate all players selected for the Investec Rugby Championship, particularly Nepo and Nehe, who we welcome back," said Hansen.

"Conversely, we commiserate with those who have missed out, particularly Julian Savea and the unlucky Matt Todd, both of whom have made great contributions to the All Blacks jersey and will do so again in the future, I'm sure."

Defending champions New Zealand kick off the Rugby Championship with back-to-back clashes against Australia on August 19 and 26.

"For us, it's case of re-establishing ourselves and building on our good work from last year and during the recent DHL New Zealand Lions Series," added Hansen. 

"There were some clear things learnt in the Lions series and this is a great chance for us to implement those; to continue to grow our skill execution and the mental side of our game, and develop our leadership and the leadership group.

"The first two Bledisloe Cup matches will set the tone, as we know the Australians will throw everything at us, while we're expecting the South Africans and Argentinians to be as bruising and physical as always. 

"We've learnt since the introduction of Argentina that there is a massive travelling component to the Championship, which comes at a cost at the end of the year, so we'll be looking to implement some new strategies to try and overcome that."


New Zealand squad for Rugby Championship:

Forwards: Scott Barrett, Sam Cane, Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Vaea Fifita, Owen Franks, Nathan Harris, Jerome Kaino, Nepo Laulala, Joe Moody, Kieran Read (captain), Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Ardie Savea, Liam Squire, Codie Taylor, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Sam Whitelock.

Backs: Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett, Ryan Crotty, Israel Dagg, Rieko Ioane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo, TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith*, Lima Sopoaga, Sonny Bill Williams.

*Damian McKenzie will replace Ben Smith, who will take a break from rugby following the first two Bledisloe Cup matches.

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