(Reuters) - Uncapped Auckland Blues backs Frank Halai, Charles Piutau and Francis Saili have been rewarded for some scintillating Super Rugby performances by being included in New Zealand's wider training squad for next month's series against France.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen included the Blues trio along with a sprinkling of other new faces in a 38-man squad for two training camps ahead of the three home tests against the French.
Winger Halai, the leading try scorer in Super Rugby, grabbed a hat-trick in Saturday's victory over Melbourne but fullback Piutau and centre Saili have been just as impressive in the powerful backline along with Rene Ranger, who was also included.
Blindside flanker Steven Luatua has also shone under the guidance of new Blues coach John Kirwan this season and earned a call-up with other uncapped forwards Ben Afeaki and Jeff Toomaga-Allen, both props, lock Dominic Bird and Brad Shields.
Back-row forward Shields was included in a similar squad ahead of last year's 3-0 whitewash of Ireland but was not among the nine new All Blacks blooded by Hansen in 2012.
Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara, who had an outstanding season last year until it was cut short by an ankle break, also earned a call-up, as did goal-kicking Crusaders flyhalf-centre Tom Taylor.
Hansen has retained the old guard of World Cup winners although there is no place for former captain Richie McCaw, who will remain on sabbatical until after the Super Rugby season.
"The camps will give us the opportunity to prepare a foundation on which we can grow our game throughout the series," said Hansen.
"As with last year, it will also give us a small window of opportunity to introduce some young players into the ways of the All Blacks and allow both these players and All Blacks management to get to know each other a little better."
Hansen said exclusion from the training camps did not necessarily mean players would not be in the squad he will name for the France series on June 2.
France, who lost to New Zealand in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, play tests at Auckland (June 8), Christchurch (June 15) and New Plymouth (June 22).
Forwards: Ben Afeaki, Dominic Bird, Sam Cane, Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Liam Messam, Steven Luatua, Keven Mealamu, Kieran Read, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Brad Shields, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Victor Vito, Samuel Whitelock, Ali Williams, Tony Woodcock.
Backs: Beauden Barrett, Daniel Carter, Aaron Cruden, Israel Dagg, Hosea Gear, Frank Halai, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Ma'a Nonu, TJ Perenara, Charles Piutau, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, Julian Savea, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Tom Taylor, Piri Weepu.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)