Ioane starts as Read captains All Blacks

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 16:30
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TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The All Blacks has handed Rieko Ioane his starting debut when he takes to the field on the left wing while Kieran Read returns to the back of the scrum to resume his captaincy role.

Ioane replaces Julian Savea while Read takes the place of Ardie Savea at No.8.

It will also be Ioane's third time facing the Lions in this year's New Zealand Lions Series. Ryan Crotty returns from injury and has been named at centre, with Anton Lienert-Brown moving to the bench.
Meanwhile, flyhalf Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga have been bracketed as cover, with a decision to be made tomorrow (Thursday).

"This was a really tough team to pick because there were a number of players in great form vying for positions. But in the end, the three selectors felt this was the best combination to take on the Lions in the first Test," All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said.

Hansen added it was great to have Read and Crotty back.

"They've both been on target to return for this game all the way through, are both in great shape and, together with the rest of the squad, they're really excited at what's ahead of us. I'd also like to congratulate Rieko on getting his first start for the All Blacks. 

"His outstanding form throughout the season this year, including against the Lions, has earned him his start on the wing," he added.

Hansen said there was a massive amount of excitement within the team.

"There's a real understanding that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  The players are well aware of the history of the All Blacks and the Lions and are determined to respect that history with their performances.

"We know this is a very good British and Irish Lions team; probably one of the best to have toured here.  It'll be a battle of contrasting styles which makes it an intriguing Test to prepare for and to be part of. We know the importance of this match and we will bring real energy and intensity. It'll be a physical Test but, just as importantly, it will be a mental test.

"There will be a unique and electric atmosphere at Eden Park on Saturday night. It's something we're really looking forward to and we can't wait," he stated.

The New Zealand Lions Series is the 12th tour to New Zealand by the Lions.  The first game was in 1904 and the teams have played 38 Test matches to date, with the All Blacks winning 29 of those matches.

The most recent Lions Test was at Eden Park on July 9, 2005, where the All Blacks won 38-15. The All Blacks last weekend became the first team to reach 15,000 Test points in the team's 553rd Test. France is second with 13,450 points.

Beauden Barrett has now scored 321 points in Test matches and is fifth on the all-time All Blacks list. Aaron Cruden is fourth on 322 points. The top three are pretty well-known names: Dan Carter, Andrew Mehrtens and Grant Fox.

Owen Franks will become the ninth most capped All Blacks in his 92nd Test on Saturday, equal to All Blacks great Sean Fitzpatrick.
 
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden/Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.

Date: Saturday, June 24
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT, 08.35 BST)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Jérôme Garcès (France)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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