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Last Updated: Monday, 26 May, 2003, 01:52 GMT 02:52 UK
Thorne named All Blacks skipper
Reuben Thorne
Thorne won selection over a number of rivals
Reuben Thorne has been named captain for New Zealand's visit by England, Wales and France next month.

The Canterbury Crusaders flanker was preferred ahead of a host of other candidates to skipper the All Blacks for the trio of Tests.

Thorne was one of three captains used during 2002 by coach John Mitchell, who named five new caps in his 26-man squad.

The newcomers are Auckland centre Malili Muliaina and wing Joe Rokocoko, Wellington centre Ma'a Nonu, and Canterbury duo Daniel Carter and Brad Thorn.

The major omissions are Taine Randell, Christian Cullen, Jonah Lomu and Andrew Mehrtens.

Lomu is suffering with a chronic kidney problem, while the remaining trio's absence are simple selection issues.

There's been plenty of debate about the captaincy but we had total confidence in Reuben
New Zealand coach John Mitchell

Mitchell said: "We know what Mehrtens can offer and, just with all the others who have missed out, the door is not closed."

Thorne captained the Crusaders to the Super 12 final, which they lost against the Auckland Blues on Saturday.

Over the issue of the captaincy, Mitchell added: "There's been plenty of debate about the captaincy but we, as a selection panel, had total confidence in Reuben.

"We've had success in the past and we respect him highly as do his team-mates."

Of the new caps, the All Blacks coach added: "Muliaina covers full-back extremely well, as he does at outside centre. He also can play in the wing position.

"Joe Rokocoko is an exciting talent. Physically he's the fastest person in New Zealand and physically he punches and plays above his weight.

"Ma'a Nonu is a wonderful attacking threat, Daniel Carter is unique in the fact he can play second five-eighth, first five-eighth and he is also a goal kicker, while we value Brad's skills and his morals."

New Zealand are due to face England in Wellington on 14 June, Wales in Hamilton on 21 June and France in Christchurch on 28 June.

Backs: Leon MacDonald, Doug Howlett, Joe Rokocoko, Caleb Ralph, Mils Muliaina, Ma'a Nonu, Tana Umaga, Dan Carter, Aaron Mauger, Carlos Spencer, Steve Devine, Justin Marshall.

Forwards: Reuben Thorne (captain), Jerry Collins, Rodney So'oialo, Richie McCaw, Marty Holah, Ali Williams, Chris Jack, Brad Thorn, Kees Meeuws, Greg Somerville, Carl Hoeft, Dave Hewett, Anton Oliver, Keven Mealamu.


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