The All Blacks team for the historic Test against Manu Samoa in Apia on Wednesday has been named, with George Moala to make his Test debut on the wing. A further three new All Blacks have been named on the reserves bench: prop Nepo Laulala, halfback Brad Weber and midfielder Charlie Ngatai.
The starting XV features a wealth of experience in the forward pack, with 648 Test caps up front, courtesy of a front row of Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Owen Franks; locks Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano; and the familiar loose forward trio of Jerome Kaino, captain Richie McCaw and Kieran Read.
There are a further 224 Test caps in the starting backline, with halfback Andy Ellis returning to the All Blacks for the first time since 2011; Daniel Carter is at first five-eighth, with Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty in the midfield. Moala is on the right wing, Charles Piutau is on the left and Israel Dagg is at fullback.
On the bench, hooker Hikawera Elliot continues his remarkable rugby comeback after last playing for the All Blacks in 2012 and undergoing neck surgery in 2013. Wyatt Crockett joins Laulala as prop cover while Brodie Retallick will provide lock cover. Another returning All Black, Matt Todd, is loose forward reserve. In the backs, Colin Slade joins Weber and Ngatai as backs reserves.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said the team was excited by the numerous challenges that the Test against Samoa will pose.
“The Samoans will be incredibly physical and keen to put in a huge performance in front of their fans and we will have to play with high intensity and accuracy with plenty of physicality.
“We have had a good build-up this week and, with it being a new season and our first Test of the year, we have tried to keep things as simple as possible and now looking forward to getting our season underway.”
The All Blacks and Samoa have played each other five times since 1993 and this is the first Test to be played in Apia. The last Test was on 3 September 2008 in New Plymouth. Current All Blacks who played in that match include Tony Woodcock, Jerome Kaino and Daniel Carter.
Kick off is at 3pm local time on July 8th (2pm NZST, 02:00am GMT)
Samoa starting XV:
15. Tim Nanai-Williams, 14. Alofa Alofa, 13. Paul Perez, 12. Johnny Leota, 11. Alesana Tuilagi, 10. Tusi Pisi, 9. Kahn Fotuali’i, 8. Ofisa Treviranus (c), 7. Jack Lam, 6. Alafoti Faosiliva, 5. Kane Thompson, 4. Teofilo Paulo, 3. Census Johnson, 2. Wayne Ole Avei, 1. Sakaria Taulafo
Reserves: 16. Ma’atulimanu Leiataua, 17. Anthony Perenise, 18. Iosefa Tekori, 19. Maurie Faasavalu, 20. Peleifofoga Cowley, 21. Faialaga Afamasaga, 22. Ken Pisi
All Blacks starting XV:
1. Tony Woodcock, 2. Keven Mealamu, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Luke Romano, 5. Samuel Whitelock, 6. Jerome Kaino, 7. Richie McCaw (c), 8. Kieran Read, 9. Andy Ellis, 10. Daniel Carter, 11. Charles Piutau, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 13. Ryan Crotty, 14. George Moala, 15. Israel Dagg
Reserves: 16. Hikawera Elliot, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Nepo Laulala, 19. Brodie Retallick, 20. Matt Todd , 21. Brad Weber, 22. Colin Slade, 23. Charlie Ngatai
Hear what Tim Nanai Williams had to say about facing his cousin, and chiefs teammate, Sonny Bill Williams. He also talks about always having wanted to play for Samoa.
credit: One News/CraZy GamErs