PREVIEW: All Blacks v Fiji (Dunedin)

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Match details: All Blacks v Fiji, Saturday 10 July, 7.05pm (NZT), Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Played: 5

First game: All Blacks 74, Fiji 13 (27 May 1987)

Last game: All Blacks 60, Fiji 14 (22 July 2011)

Referee: Paul Williams


It will be a special night for halfback Aaron Smith who will captain the All Blacks for the first time in his 98th Test match. It will be extra sweet for Smith to lead the side on the home track of his beloved Highlanders side. All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster said: “Aaron is a special player with real mana and a natural leader and his preparation is second to none. I’m sure he, his wife Teagan and his wider whānau will be proud of what he has achieved.”


22-year-old prop Ethan de Groot is poised to make his Test debut from the bench. The Gore-born powerhouse was super impressive for the Highlanders during their 2021 campaign and will have plenty of home-town support should he get on the field on Saturday. All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree revealed earlier this week that de Groot had cheekily told him that “the whole of Gore would be coming up for the game and he would appreciate being selected”.


One of the great spectacles in world sport will take place prior to kick-off when the All Blacks haka meets Fiji’s Cibi. Last week Dane Coles led the All Blacks haka for the first time and it will be interesting to see whether Coles or new skipper Aaron Smith leads the pre-match challenge at Forsyth Barr Stadium.


The All Blacks have won their last eight Tests to be played in Dunedin with their last loss coming against France (27-22) in June 2009. They have never lost at Forsyth Barr Stadium.


Fiji Head Coach Vern Cotter said his side will not be at full strength after regular halfbacks Frank Lomani and Mosesi Sorovi and first five-eighths Teti Tela were unable to join the side in New Zealand due to the closing of the travel bubble with Australia. Despite the absence of Lomani, Sorovi and Tela, there are plenty of familiar names to New Zealand fans with Nemani Nadolo in the 11 jersey and Manasa Mataele poised to make his debut from the bench. Cotter said: "It's cold in Dunedin, but it's under cover, and it will be a dry ball and that suits us. We're going to play Fijian rugby, we're going to play the rugby that suits us, and we're good at. We're not going to play somebody else's rugby, we're going to play our rugby."


Hear from All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster on the 23 players named to face Fiji.


All Blacks (caps in brackets):

1: George Bower (1) 2: Codie Taylor (56) 3: Nepo Laulala (29) 4: Patrick Tuipulotu (37) 5: Brodie Retallick (81) 6: Shannon Frizell (13) 7: Ethan Blackadder (1) 8: Hoskins Sotutu (5) 9: Aaron Smith (97) - captain 10: Beauden Barrett (89) 11: George Bridge (11) 12: David Havili (3) 13: Rieko Ioane (35) 14: Sevu Reece (8) 15: Jordie Barrett (24)

Reserves: 16: Dane Coles (75) 17: Ethan de Groot (new cap) 18: Tyrel Lomax (7) 19: Samuel Whitelock (123) 20: Luke Jacobson (3) 21: Finlay Christie (1) 22: Damian McKenzie (28) 23: Will Jordan (3)


1.Peni Ravai, 2. Samuel Matavesi, 3. Mesake Doge, 4. Temo Mayanavanua, 5. Leone Nakarawa, 6. Johnny Dyer, 7. Mesulame Kunavula, 8. Albert Tuisue, 9. Simione Kuruvoli, 10. Ben Volavola, 11. Nemani Nadolo, 12. Levani Botia (captain), 13. Waisea Nayacalevu, 14. Eroni Sau, 15. Kini Murimurivalu.

Reserves: 16. Peni Narisia, 17. Haereiti Hetet, 18. Leeroy Atalifo, 19. Tevita Ratuva, 20. Peceli Yato, 21. Setareki Tuicuvu, 22. Eneriko Buliruarua, 23. Manasa Mataele.


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