The All Blacks will welcome back four players from injury while another one is set to celebrate a special individual milestone in Friday’s Rugby World Cup Pool A clash with Italy in Lyon.
The encounter marks the return of inside centre Jordie Barrett and blindside flanker Shannon Frizell, who have been named in the run-on side, while Sam Cane and Tyrel Lomax are due to make their return from the replacements bench.
Sam Whitelock eyeing All Blacks record
If the 34-year-old takes to the field, he will surpass former All Blacks captain and openside flanker Richie McCaw’s record of 148 Test matches for the three-time world champions, played between 2001 and 2015.
Whitelock is set to break New Zealand’s Test appearance record 13 years and three months after making his international debut against Ireland in New Plymouth in June 2010.
New Zealand and Italy have everything to play for, making this an intriguing showdown in front of a crowd that is expected to be close to 60,000.
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster expects a tough challenge from the Azzurri.
“Italy is growing in confidence after winning their first two games and they represent a massive challenge for us after coming off our bye week,” he said.
“We fully respect their growth over the last two years and are expecting a huge game with both teams having everything to play for.”
Up front, Foster and his fellow selectors – Jason Ryan and Joe Schmidt – have over 180 Test caps of experience with Codie Taylor (hooker) starting alongside Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Nepo Laulala, who are the two props.
Meanwhile, Test centurion Brodie Retallick is joined by Scott Barrett in the engine room, while Ardie Savea will captain the side from number eight with Dalton Papali’i and Frizell the starting flankers.
The match will be the All Blacks’ first Test in Lyon since their 2007 Rugby World Cup pool match against Portugal. With the team being based in Lyon for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, it is fitting that next week’s final pool match against Uruguay will also be staged there.
“We have really enjoyed our time in Lyon and look forward to seeing many of the locals at the game on Friday,” added Foster. “We can’t thank them enough for the hospitality and support that they have shown us since we arrived at the start of the tournament.”
New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea (c), 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ofa Tu’ungafasi
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Samuel Whitelock, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Cam Roigard, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown
Date: Friday, September 29
Venue: OL Stadium, Lyon
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 BST, 19:00 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant Referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia)