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 winger Caleb Clarke.
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.
In the backs, Aaron Smith will play his 93rd test at halfback, with TJ Perenara providing cover off the bench in his 65th test. Richie Mo’unga starts at ten while Jack Goodhue at 12 and Rieko Ioane in his first Test start at centre make up the midfield.
All Blacks head coach Ian 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 said.
“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.”
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. For us, it’s about getting our basics right and focussing on our set piece and momentum, and then letting the guys use their skillsets 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. 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.”
All Blacks team to play the Wallabies:
1. Joe Moody (46)
2. Codie Taylor (50)
3. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (35)
4. Patrick Tuipulotu (30)
5. Samuel Whitelock (117)
6. Shannon Frizell (9)
7. Sam Cane (68) – captain
8. Ardie Savea (44)
9. Aaron Smith (92)
10. Richie Mo’unga (17)
11. George Bridge (9)
12. Jack Goodhue (13)
13. Rieko Ioane (29)
14. Jordie Barrett (17)
15. Beauden Barrett (83)
– New Zealand Rugby
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