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Holah included in All Blacks squad

Marty Holah will lead the All Blacks’ charge to defend their World Rugby Classic title next week.

The Waikato Chiefs flanker, who was capped 36 times by his country, has been named in the defending champions’ initial squad for the tournament that begins on Sunday.

Manager Andy Haden has one or two spots that still need to be filled, including at hooker and No 8, but Holah is part of a strong looking side that includes Brendan Laney, the former Scotland centre, and Tony Marsh, the former France centre.

Haden has also included some pace and experience on the wing where Brad Fleming, the former New Zealand Sevens star who was part of the Commonwealth Games winning side of 2002, will appear alongside ex-All Black Claeb Ralph, who scored eight tries in 13 Tests.

Other names of note in the squad include props Hayden Scown and Joe McDonnell, and fly half Junior Tonu’u.

New Zealand open this year’s Classic against USA on Sunday (2.30pm) and, if results go as expected, should meet Classic Lions in the first Classic semi-final on Wednesday night. The Lions’ first match is against Italy on Sunday.

Once again South Africa and Australia are expected to round out the top four although both face tricky opening matches against Argentina and Canada respectively.

Of the two the Springboks will face the tougher test against an Argentina side that includes the likes of Federico Todeschini and Diego Albanese.

Australia, meanwhile, are expected to ease past Canada, although the tournament’s perenial whipping boys have named a far stronger squad than in recent years and could yet cause an upset.

Canadian rugby is also on a high following their Sevens team’s 26-24 win over Argentina in the final of the Pan Amercian Games last week. Although none of those players will be making the trip, two Sevens players, Dan Harlow and Nolan Miles are part of the squad.

Overall there are 13 new faces in Andy Wright’s squad and the three props, Kevin Wirachowski, Garth Cooke and Rod Snow, alone have more than 100 Test appearances between them.

All the new additions have international experience and John Graf, who captained Canada 15 times during his 55-cap career, will add plenty of experience in the backs, as will fullbacks Morgan Williams and Julian Loveday.

Photo by Mark Tatem Action from last year's Classic final between the All Blacks and South Africa. The All Blacks won 28-5 and are back looking to win for the third year on the trott.

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Published November 03, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated November 03, 2011 at 9:38 am)

Holah included in All Blacks squad

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