¬Rookies, a bolter and quiet confidence among All Blacks

There are five fresh faces in the first All Blacks squad of the year including a genuine "bolter" and coach Ian Foster is confident he has the team to win the World Cup.

Foster was back at his old stomping ground at Te Awamutu Rugby Club for Sunday night's squad announcement and there were plenty of cheers when the five debutants were named, especially the Chiefs players, loose forward Samipeni Finau and outside back Emoni Narawa.

The other uncapped players are the Hurricanes halfback Cam Roigard, who takes the place of the veteran Brad Weber, and two Crusaders, prop Tamaiti Williams and midfielder Dallas McLeod.

The latter's inclusion was a surprise for many, but he gets a shot with regulars David Havili and Quinn Tupaea out injured.

Foster believes there's something special about the 24-year-old.

"He's big, he's raw-boned, he's quick and he's got an outstanding attitude to get involved. He doesn't hold back, he backs himself, he's a great kick chase person and I think he's been pretty impressive."

Foster clearly thinks all five rookies could be good enough to go to this year's World Cup, with the truncated Rugby Championship their chance to prove it.

Forwards coach Jason Ryan believes Finau could be the answer the All Blacks have been searching for at blindside flanker.

"He's a pretty special lineout forward, defensively and attacking wise, and he brings a ball carry that's a real point of difference.

"The game that stood out for me was the game that the Chiefs lost against the Reds when they didn't have All Blacks Sam Cane, Guzzler (Brodie Retallick) and Samisoni (Taukei'aho) and he (Finau) stood up and he fronted in their forward pack.

"It probably showed us that he's exactly the sort of No.6 we're after."

Uncapped Hurricanes halfback Roigard is another player the All Blacks selectors were after, with assistant Joe Schmidt conceding his form and prodigious left boot were impossible to ignore.

"He's been impressive with his sniping runs and he's got a really consistent pass either side. Obviously his left foot kicking game is strong. Some of the length in his kicking game...his ability to from his own goal line to put the ball out on the halfway, that just allows breathing space and takes the heat off a team that's under pressure."

Flanker Sam Cane remains as All Blacks captain and will lead the side to the World Cup barring injury.

The skipper's role is one that comes with plenty of pressure and Cane knows that in a World Cup year, and with the team coming off a turbulent 2022 in which Foster almost lost his job, the stakes are higher than ever.

"Yeah, huge. It's (World Cup) the pinnacle. It's well documented we've been through a tough patch as a team, but with that I believe there's been a lot of growth both individually and within the team.

"Hopefully we can put that to the front and show it and go over to France with the backing of the country and do our best to bring the thing home."

While the World Cup is the big carrot, Foster is determined to win the Rugby Championship, which the All Blacks haven't done in a World Cup year since 2007.

Foster believes shaking off their traditionally slow start to the test season will be crucial to their chances of success later in the year.

"It's important for us to get back up to speed really, really quickly. The work that Jason Ryan and Greg Feek have been doing with our forwards, we need to re-establish that level very, very quickly and the other side of the game, the attacking and the defence side of the game, we just want to set a level that we want.

"The World Cup, from day one, is pretty big and we want to be ready."

While Foster's role is safe he still has his doubters after the All Blacks ended with eight wins, four losses and and one draw last year - their worst win/loss record since 1998.

However, Foster is confident his side have turned the corner and he's bullish about their chances of claiming the World Cup trophy in October.

"Absolutely. The good thing is that not too many other people think we can. It's probably a slightly unusual space to be in as an All Blacks team, but it doesn't change our belief."

Fans won't have too wait long to see if that belief is warranted, with the All Blacks kicking off their Rugby Championship title defence in Argentina on July the 9th.