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All Blacks XV named to play Japan

By Ian Cameron
New Zealand's Akira Ioane (C) celebrates his try with teammates Aaron Smith (L) and Samuel Whitelock during the third rugby Test match between New Zealand and Ireland at Sky Stadium in Wellington on July 16, 2022. (Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFP) (Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

All Blacks XV headicoach Leon MacDonald has named his playing 23 to face a Japan XV in the first of a two match series.

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The starting front row for the team consists of Xavier Numia as the loosehead prop, Jermaine Ainsley as the tighthead prop, and Ricky Riccitelli as the hooker. Impact players on the bench include Tyrone Thompson, Ollie Norris, and Pouri Rakete-Stones.

Naitoa Ah Kuoi and Quinten Strange form the locking duo, while the loose forward trio comprises Akira Ioane, Christian Lio-Willie, and Du’Plessis Kirifi. Co-Captain Billy Harmon and Cameron Suafoa are substitutes.

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In the backline, Brad Weber (Co-Captain) and Stephen Perofeta will play at scrum-half and fly-half, respectively. Jack Goodhue and Alex Nankivell are the midfield combination at 12 and 13. Folau Fakatava will make an impact from the bench.

The back three consists of Etene Nanai-Seturo on the left wing, Bailyn Sullivan on the right wing, and Ruben Love as the starting fullback. Sam Gilbert and Brett Cameron are named as replacements.

“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,” said MacDonald.

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

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MacDonald has also named Brad Weber and Billy Harmon as co-captains.

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The matchday 23 is as follows (Super Rugby Club, Province)

Xavier Numia (Hurricanes, Wellington)
Ricky Riccitelli (Blues, Taranaki)
Jermaine Ainsley (Highlanders, Otago)
Naitoa Ah Kuoi (Chiefs, Bay of Plenty)
Quinten Strange (Crusaders, Tasman)
Akira Ioane (Blues, Auckland)
Du’Plessis Kirifi (Hurricanes, Wellington)
Christian Lio-Willie (Crusaders, Otago)
Brad Weber – Co-Captain (Chiefs, Hawke’s Bay)
Stephen Perofeta (Blues, Taranaki)
Etene Nanai-Seturo (Chiefs, Counties Manukau)
Jack Goodhue (Crusaders, Northland)
Alex Nankivell (Chiefs, Tasman)
Bailyn Sullivan (Hurricanes, Waikato)
Ruben Love (Hurricanes, Wellington)
Tyrone Thompson (Chiefs, Hawke’s Bay)
Ollie Norris (Chiefs, Waikato)
Pouri Rakete-Stones (Hurricanes, Hawke’s Bay)
Cameron Suafoa (Blues, North Harbour)
Billy Harmon – Co-Captain (Highlanders, Canterbury)
Folau Fakatava (Highlanders, Hawke’s Bay)
Brett Cameron (Hurricanes, Manawat?)
Sam Gilbert (Highlanders, Otago)

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Turlough 5 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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