The New Zealand team has been named to play Australia in the opening Bledisloe Cup Test at Sky Stadium in Wellington on Sunday.
The matchday 23 is an exciting blend of experience and rising, young talent, with the selection of three new All Blacks on the bench – lock Tupou Vaa’i, loose forward Hoskins Sotutu and wing Caleb Clarke.
The All Blacks starting pack features the experienced front-row of Joe Moody at loosehead prop, Ofa Tuungafasi in the number three jersey, and 50-Test hooker Codie Taylor in the number two shirt. Props Nepo Laulala and Karl Tu’inukuafe and hooker Dane Coles, playing in his 70th Test, will provide front-row impact off the bench.
Samuel Whitelock will play his 118th Test at lock – becoming the fourth equal most capped All Black of all time, alongside Tony Woodcock – alongside Patrick Tuipulotu, while in the loose forwards, All Blacks captain Sam Cane is at seven, Shannon Frizell gets the nod at blindside flanker, while Ardie Savea starts at number eight.
Richie Mo’unga continues at 10
In the backs, Aaron Smith will play his 93rd Test at scrum-half, with TJ Perenara providing cover off the bench in his 65th Test. Richie Mo’unga starts at fly-half while Jack Goodhue will wear the number 12 jersey and Rieko Ioane is set for his first Test start at outside centre. Anton Lienert-Brown is midfield cover from the bench.
The starting back three is Jordie Barrett on the right wing, George Bridge on the left, with Beauden Barrett at full-back.
Foster said he and fellow selectors John Plumtree and Grant Fox had kept an open mind about selections.
“We really wanted to see how players adapted and fitted in and how comfortable they were coming back into the environment and so there were a number of positions that we wanted to keep an open mind about,” he explained.
“We’re excited by the group. There’s a lot of talent in there and we’ve got players jumping out of their skin and wanting an opportunity. It’s been fantastic to come together and know at the end of the week there’s a Test match. There’s been a lot of hard work, but the tightness of the group and the desire and the excitement about playing an international game is right up there.”
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 9, 2020
Foster is anticipating a fast, hectic, high-intensity contest from both teams.
“It’s a Bledisloe series and both teams will be determined to put a marker down,” he said. “For us, it’s about getting our basics right and focussing on our set piece and momentum, and then letting the guys use their skill-sets around the structure.”
Meanwhile, Foster has a message for All Blacks fans who have waited a long time for the return of Test rugby, especially those in attendance at Sky Stadium on Sunday.
“Just be loud and enjoy it,” he said. “Whilst this is a massive game for us and the Bledisloe means everything, it’s also, in some way, a bit of a celebration after everything we’ve been through. For those that love the game, we just have to enjoy it and hopefully, together with the Wallabies, we can put on an occasion that befits that.”
New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Jordie Barrett, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Tupou Vaai, 20 Hoskins Sotutu, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Caleb Clarke
Date: Sunday, October 11
Venue: Sky Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 16:00 local (04:00 BST, 03:00 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)