New-look All Blacks to face Japan
The All Blacks have named four uncapped players in their matchday squad for the historic Test in Tokyo on Saturday
The All Blacks have named four uncapped players in their matchday squad for the historic Test at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday
The starting XV sees bustling Counties-Manukau and Blues wing Frank Halai selected in an All Blacks side for the first time, with massive Crusaders and Canterbury lock Dominic Bird also making his debut.
At 2.06m, Bird will become the tallest All Black on record when he takes the field, just shading former All Blacks lock Mark Cooksley.
Two other new All Blacks have also been named on the bench - Wellington and Hurricanes prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen and Canterbury and Crusaders loose forward Luke Whitelock.
In the starting XV, Wyatt Crockett, Dane Coles and Ben Franks are in the front row; Bird pairs up with lock Jeremy Thrush in the second row, while in the loose forwards, All Black captain Richie McCaw moves to No.8, which allows Sam Cane another start at No.7 and Steven Luatua is at No.6.
In the backline, Tawera Kerr-Barlow gets his first Test start in his 12th Test while Dan Carter returns from his shoulder injury to take his regular spot in the No.10 jersey. In the midfield, Saili starts his second Test inside Ben Smith, who gets another opportunity at centre, while joining Halai in the back three are Charles Piutau on the right wing and Beauden Barrett at fullback.
In the reserves, joining Toomaga-Allen and Whitelock as forward reserves are hooker Andrew Hore, prop Charlie Faumuina and lock Brodie Retallick. The back reserves are Aaron Smith, Tom Taylor and Ryan Crotty.
All Black head coach Steve Hansen said: "Firstly, we would like congratulate the new caps in the team. It will be a special day for them and their families. As for the game, we are looking forward to this encounter. It is a great opportunity for our 'less capped' players to drive the All Blacks week and preparation, which will then culminate in Saturday's performance.
"The three selectors have been very mindful of using this game to gather some more information on our younger players but also using it to provide McCaw and Carter with some game time.
"We are expecting the Japanese to be very competitive and it will be important that we respect them and engage them in the physical aspects of the game before attempting to play too much 'razzle dazzle'-type rugby. It's about earning the right to play. If we don't do this, we can get caught up in the type of game that suits them."
Commenting on the All Blacks' build-up in Tokyo, Hansen added: "We have been really well looked after here in Japan, it has been a lovely destination to tour to and the Japanese have been fantastic hosts, which bodes well for Rugby World Cup 2019.
"Finally, the All Blacks would like to again send our best wishes to Japanese coach Eddie Jones for a speedy recovery."
New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Charles Piutau, 13 Ben Smith, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Richie McCaw (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Ryan Crotty.
Date: Saturday, November 2
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Ground, Tokyo
Kick-off: 14.00 (18.00 NZ time; 05.00 GMT)
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Andrew Lees (Australia)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)