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Eight capped players included in All Blacks XV to take on Ireland A

By Tom Vinicombe
Damian McKenzie. (Photo by Scott Powick/Photosport)

Head coach Leon MacDonald has named the first-ever All Blacks XV match-day 23 for this Friday’s fixture with the Irish Wolfhounds.

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The All Blacks XV, New Zealand’s second-string side, will include eight capped internationals for the clash, including prop Aidan Ross, lock Patrick Tuipulotu, loose forward Luke Jacobson, halfback TJ Perenara, pivot Damian McKenzie, midfielders Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Braydon Ennor and reserve utility back Josh Ioane.

Tuipulotu, who featured off the pine for the All Blacks in Japan last weekend, will captain the side and partner Highlander Josh Dickson in the second row.

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Ross will combine with Brodie McAlister and Tevita Mafileo to round out a formidable tight five.

In the loose forwards, Jacobson will start on the openside flank with first-choice fetcher Billy Harmon currently occupied with All Blacks duties. Dominic Gardiner and Marino Mikaele-Tu’u will take on the blindside flanker and number 8 duties, respectively.

78-Test All Black TJ Perenara has been preferred ahead of young guns Cam Roigard and Cortez Ratima in the halfback role while Damian McKenzie has been named in the No 10 jersey.

With Tuivasa-Sheck and Ennor being unloaded to the side from the NZ national side, it’s no surprise that those two will resume their partnership from last weekend’s match against the Brave Blossoms.

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Out wide, AJ Lam and late call-up Shaun Stevenson have been named on the wings and Hurricanes utility Ruben Love will slot in at fullback.

On the bench, 22-year-olds Tyrone Thompson, Finlay Brewis and Tamaiti Williams will add impact in the front row with 21-year-old Zach Gallagher providing locking cover. New Crusaders recruit Christian Lio-Willie has been handed the No 20 jersey while Roigard, Ioane and Alex Nankivell round out the side.

“We are anticipating a huge challenge from Ireland A on Friday,” said MacDonald. “They are a top-tier, physical team with strong attack and defence, as we saw earlier this year against the Maori All Blacks.

“With a short lead in to this first match, we’ve balanced out experience with younger rising talent. The players are all out to showcase their immense skills and strength as a team, they’re excited to get this opportunity to play on an international scale and to represent New Zealand in what will be a proud moment for players and their whanau.”

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With so many players initially named for the All Blacks XV now unavailable, MacDonald has also called up hooker Andrew Makalio and Crusader Tom Christie for the squad.

Friday’s match is set to kick off at 7:45pm GMT from the RDS Arena in Dublin.

All Blacks XV: Ruben Love, Shaun Stevenson, Braydon Ennor, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, AJ Lam, Damian McKenzie, TJ Perenara, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Luke Jacobson, Dominic Gardiner, Patrick Tuipulotu, Josh Dickson, Tevita Mafileo, Brodie McAlister, Aidan Ross. Reserves: Tyrone Thompson, Finlay Brewis, Tamaiti Williams, Zach Gallagher, Christian Lio-Willie, Cam Roigard, Josh Ioane, Alex Nankivell.

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