Brad Weber to captain strong All Blacks XV against Japan XV

David Skippers

New Zealand's Brad Weber offloads the ball during the Autumn International match at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff. Picture date: Saturday November 5, 2022.

All Blacks XV head coach Leon MacDonald has named a strong starting line-up with experienced Test scrum-half Brad Weber as captain for their clash against a Japan XV in Tokyo on Saturday.

Weber is one of six capped New Zealand internationals in the All Blacks XV’s matchday squad, alongside Akira Ioane (blindside flanker), Stephen Perofeta (fly-half), Jack Goodhue (inside centre), who are all in the starting line-up, while Folau Fakatava (scrum-half) and Brett Cameron (fly-half) are amongst the replacements.

Solid front-row

In the All Blacks XV‘s starting front-row, Ricky Riccitelli packs down at hooker alongside Xavier Numia and Jermaine Ainsley, who are the two props, while Naitoa Ah Kuoi and Quinten Strange make up the second-row duo.

Meanwhile, Ioane is joined in the back-row by Du’Plessis Kirifi and Christian Lio-Willie, who start on the openside flank and number eight respectively.

In the backline, Perofeta lines up at fly-half and joins Weber as the starting half-back pairing while Goodhue and Alex Nankivell form the centre combination.

In the back three, Ruben Love gets the nod at full-back while Bailyn Sullivan and Etene Nanai-Seturo will start on the wings.

Tyrone Thompson (hooker) and Ollie Norris and Pouri Rakete-Stones (props) will provide impact off the bench as the back-up front-row, while Cameron Suafoa and Billy Harmon – who is the squad’s co-captain – will offer lock and loose forward cover.

The rest of the replacements bench consists of backline reserves in Fakatava, Cameron and Sam Gilbert.

MacDonald is preparing his players for a tough encounter against their Japanese hosts.

“We are anticipating a huge challenge from Japan on Saturday, they are a strong team and we know they have been preparing intensely for the next two matches,” he said.

MacDonald believes Weber and Harmon’s experience as leaders will be an asset for the team.

“With a short lead in to kick off, it’s about balancing the team with experienced players and emerging talent,” he explained. “The players are all out to showcase their skills and strength as a team on the international stage.

‘Proud moment for the team’

“It’s going to be an incredibly proud moment for the team and their whanau, especially for those players representing New Zealand for the first time.”

All Blacks XV: 15 Ruben Love, 14 Bailyn Sullivan, 13 Alex Nankivell, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Brad Weber (cc), 8 Christian Lio-Willie, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Xavier Numia
Replacements: 16 Tyrone Thompson, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 19 Cameron Suafoa, 20 Billy Harmon (cc), 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Sam Gilbert

Date: Saturday, July 8
Venue: Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo
Kick-off: 17:00 local (08:00 BST, 07:00 GMT)
Referee: TBC
Assistant Referees: TBC

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