Aaron Smith to captain New Zealand against Fiji

David Skippers

It will be a special night for veteran scrum-half Aaron Smith, who will captain the All Blacks for the first time in his 98th Test, when they face Fiji in Dunedin on Saturday.

The All Blacks selectors have made full use of their squad in naming the team to play Fiji in the first of two Tests.

In the starting front-row, George Bower moves from his bench Test debut last week against Tonga to make his first Test start at loosehead prop, alongside hooker Codie Taylor and tighthead Nepo Laulala, who will be playing his 30th Test.

Ethan de Groot set for Test debut

Tyrel Lomax again provides prop cover, alongside Ethan de Groot, who is set to make his Test debut off the replacements bench.

81-Test lock Brodie Retallick makes his eagerly-awaited return to the All Blacks matchday 23, starting alongside Patrick Tuipulotu, with Samuel Whitelock moving to the bench.

In the loose forwards, Ethan Blackadder moves from the bench to make his first Test start in the seven jersey, Shannon Frizell is at blindside flanker and Hoskins Sotutu is at number eight. Luke Jacobson provides loose forward cover in the 20 jersey.

In the backs, Beauden Barrett will don the 10 jersey and is playing his 90th Test, while David Havili is back in black, picked at inside centre. It will be his first Test start in his fourth Test match. Rieko Ioane is at outside him for his third start at 13.

George Bridge retains his spot on the left wing, Sevu Reece is on the right and Jordie Barrett is at full-back in his 25th Test. Providing backline cover from the bench are Finlay Christie, Damian McKenzie and Will Jordan.

On Smith’s captaincy, 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 whanau will be proud of what he has achieved.

“We also want to congratulate Ethan on his selection. It’ll be a great occasion for him and his family and friends and we look forward to seeing him play.

On this weekend’s Test, Foster added: “The Fijian team will bring a very different challenge from Tonga. They are a more established side made up of primarily overseas-based players, who are amongst some of the better players in Europe.

“We can’t wait to play under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium. It should be a fast, physical match and our team are excited by what the weekend will bring.”

New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 George Bridge, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith (c), 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Ethan Blackadder, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ethan de Groot, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Samuel Whitelock, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Will Jordan

Date: Saturday, July 10
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19:05 local (08:05 BST, 07:05 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Jono Bredin (New Zealand)
TMO: Chris Hart (New Zealand)


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