First All Blacks start for Coles

Date published: June 6 2013

Hooker Dane Coles will make his first Test start for the All Blacks in Saturday's opening June Test against France at Eden Park.

Hooker Dane Coles will make his first Test start for the All Blacks in Saturday's opening June Test against France at Eden Park.

Coles will earn his fifth cap and be alongside experienced props Wyatt Crockett and Owen Franks in the front-row.

There are also two new caps in the matchday 23, with prop Ben Afeaki and lock Jeremy Thrush, set to make their Test debuts off the bench.

The team features a strong core of experienced All Blacks plus a clutch of younger players, with a combined total of 377 Test caps in the starting XV.

The team will be captained by number eight Kieran Read who is joined in the back-row by Sam Cane at openside flanker and Liam Messam on the blindside.

In the backs, the well-oiled provincial combination of Aaron Smith and Aaron Cruden start their fifth Test together in the absence of the injured Dan Carter.

The All Blacks' most capped midfield combination of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith will again link up. The back three sees the experienced Israel Dagg at full-back joining with two Super Rugby stars Ben Smith and Julian Savea on the wings.

Meanwhile, joining Afeaki and Thrush on the eight-man reserves bench are experienced hooker Keven Mealamu, prop Ben Franks, loose forward Victor Vito while covering the backs are Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett and Rene Ranger.

“Though the week has been disrupted with injury and illness, we have still been able to have a good week's preparation and there is no doubting that our two camps have been invaluable in assisting with this,” said All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen.

“To their credit, everyone has worked hard off the field and we couldn't be happier. The young guys have provided that unbridled enthusiasm that comes with being a new All Black, while the more experienced guys have provided the calm focus that's needed to allow a busy week to be dealt with in the right manner and to prepare well.”

Despite their last placing in this year's Six Nations, Hansen said there was no way the All Blacks would be underestimating the French.

“We all know how the French can play. The only predictable thing about them is their unpredictability, so we will have to be ready for whatever they throw at us,” he added.

The teams meet for the first time since the nail-biting Rugby World Cup Final at the same venue.

“The team is excited again about meeting the French at what looks set to be a sold-out Eden Park and given it's a Centenary celebration for Eden Park, I'm sure the fans will get into the occasion as well,” said Hansen.

The All Blacks have played France 51 times since 1906, with 38 wins to the All Blacks, 12 wins to France and the one draw. The French last played in a three-match Test Series in New Zealand in 1968.

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ben Afeaki, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Rene Ranger.

Date: Saturday, June 8
Venue: Eden Park, Aukland
Kick-off: 19.35 07.35 (GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)