The All Blacks team has been named to play Fiji in the third match of the Steinlager Series at FMG Stadium Waikato on Saturday 17 July (kick-off 7.05PM).
The matchday 23 is (Test caps in brackets)
1. George Bower (2)
2. Codie Taylor (57)
3. Nepo Laulala (30)
4. Scott Barrett (41)
5. Samuel Whitelock (124) - captain
6. Akira Ioane (3)
7. Ardie Savea (49)
8. Luke Jacobson (4)
9. Aaron Smith (98)
10. Richie Mo’unga (23)
11. Sevu Reece (9)
12. David Havili (4)
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (49)
14. Will Jordan (4)
15. Damian McKenzie (29)
16. Dane Coles (76)
17. Ethan de Groot (1)
18. Angus Ta’avao (15)
19. Brodie Retallick (82)
20. Shannon Frizell
21. Brad Weber (8)
22. Beauden Barrett (90)
23. Rieko Ioane (35)
The naming sees a return from injury for midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown and loose forward Ardie Savea in what will be their 50th Test matches. Savea will start at openside flanker and Lienert-Brown is in the 13 jersey.
The starting front row is unchanged from last week’s 57-23 win over Fiji, with loosehead prop George Bower, hooker Codie Taylor and tighthead Nepo Laulala again supported by prop Ethan de Groot and hooker Dane Coles from the bench, with prop Angus Ta’avao also coming into the reserves.
Lock Samuel Whitelock returns to captain the side, starting alongside Scott Barrett in the second row, with Brodie Retallick continuing his return to international rugby via the bench.
In the loose forwards, alongside Savea, Akira Ioane gets his second start in the Steinlager Series in the six jersey, with Luke Jacobson also getting his second start at number eight. Shannon Frizell is loose forward cover in the 20 jersey.
In the backs, Aaron Smith retains his starting spot at halfback, inside Richie Mo’unga at ten. David Havili is again at 12, inside Lienert-Brown, after his first Test start there last week. In the outsides, Sevu Reece moves to the left wing while Will Jordan comes off the bench onto the right wing and Damian McKenzie is at fullback. Halfback Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett and Rieko Ioane are the back reserves.
All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster said: “It was the second Test of the year for us last weekend and we were pretty happy with our performance. There were a lot of views about our performance and that’s the beauty of being in this team: people expect perfection.
“We took some really good steps up from the week before (against Tonga) and we were satisfied with our performance, but it did highlight some areas we need to keep growing. This Steinlager Series campaign has been about growing our game and making sure we have players that are ready to go for what will be a long season.”
On Savea’s and Lienert-Brown’s milestone, Foster said: “To play 50 games for the All Blacks is pretty special and it’s also special that they get to do it together. Both are really influential players, they’re excited and will have some proud families coming along to watch.”
Facts and stats
* This will be the All Blacks 600th Test in the team’s rich history. The first All Blacks Test match was against Australia way back in 1903.
* Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett played in their 28th win together last weekend, equalling the All Blacks inside backs wins partnership with Justin Marshall and Andrew Mehrtens. Marshall and Mehrtens took 41 Tests to reach the target while Smith and Barrett’s 28 wins have come in 34 Tests.
* The Test hookers WhatsApp chat group must have been buzzing last weekend …. as well as Dane Coles’ four tries, British and Irish Lions hooker Jamie George scored twice in South Africa, new English hooker Jamie Blamires scored a hat-trick against Canada, then Irishman Ronan Kelleher matched Coles with four tries against the USA.
The 2021 Steinlager Series
1. All Blacks 102 Tonga 0, Saturday 3 July, Mt Smart Stadium, AUCKLAND
2. All Blacks 57 Fiji 23, Saturday 10 July, Forsyth Barr Stadium, DUNEDIN
3. All Blacks vs Fiji, 7.05PM, Saturday 17 July, plus Tonga vs Samoa (kick-off 4.00PM), FMG Stadium Waikato, HAMILTON