Test Debut For Naholo

Highlanders hero Waisake Naholo will make his All Blacks debut against Argentina on Friday night, while Crusaders veterans Richie McCaw and Dan Carter will start in their final Christchurch test.
16 Jul 2015 07:28
Test Debut For Naholo
Waisake Naholo

Highlanders hero Waisake Naholo will make his All Blacks debut against Argentina on Friday night, while Crusaders veterans Richie McCaw and Dan Carter will start in their final Christchurch test.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has made just four changes to the starting XV that beat Samoa 25-16 in Apia last week but has continued to rest some of his frontline stars, including the Smith troika – Ben, Conrad and Aaron – after heavy Super Rugby playoffs workloads. Hooker Dane Coles has also been given another week off.

Naholo, 24, the top try-scorer in Super Rugby this year with 13 touch-downs, will start on the right wing for George Moala.

Ma’a Nonu takes over at centre from Ryan Crotty and TJ Perenara – fresh from a fine game in the Super Rugby final – will partner Carter in the halves instead of Andy Ellis.

The only change in the starting pack is the addition of World Rugby Player of the Year Brodie Retallick at lock in place of Sam Whitelock.

McCaw will lead an All Blacks pack replete with experience with Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino joining him in the back row. Crusader Luke Romano gets his second consecutive start at lock while Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock – who boast 303 caps between them – will pack down in the front row.

The selection of the senior pack pros could be construed as a compliment to Argentina. The Pumas have traditionally been a strong set-piece team, particularly at scrum time.

Canterbury hooker Codie Taylor, 24, is poised to make his debut off an All Blacks’ reserve bench stacked with six Crusaders. Crotty, Ellis, Colin Slade, Wyatt Crockett and Chiefs-bound tighthead prop Nepo Laulua, who earned his first cap in Samoa, are joined by Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush and Chiefs flanker Liam Messam, who replaces Crusaders fetcher Matt Todd.

The matchday 23 boasts 1068 caps and an average age of 28 years.

Hansen confirmed that he wanted to field a strong, experienced starting team against an “improving” Pumas lineup: “We have a lot of respect for Argentina and what they bring and understand that we will have to improve our game quite considerably from our Samoan effort.

“With that in mind, the selectors did not want to make too many changes. It’s a fine balancing act between getting game time for those who need it, giving others the rest they may need, and giving ourselves an opportunity to see players and combinations in the heat of the test battle so we can make good selections going forward.”

Hansen said there had been “a lot of talk about the Rugby World Cup and so forth”.

“But this test match is all about the here and now.

“It’s important that we get away to a really good start in the Rugby Championship as we will only be playing each other once this year and we only have this one home game. We will need to get points early if we are going to give ourselves a chance of winning the championship.

“We know the Argentinians will be big and fast and bring a physicality to the contest. But we are also expecting them to bring some panache through their backs as we have detected a greater desire from them to involve their whole team in their game.”

Meanwhile, Hansen has released All Blacks halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow and prop Joe Moody (New Zealand Maori) and wing Cory Jane (New Zealand Barbarians) for a game in Auckland on Saturday.

All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Waisake Naholo, Ma’a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Charles Piutau, Dan Carter, T J Perenara; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (c), Jerome Kaino, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Nepo Laulala, Jeremy Thrush, Liam Messam, Andy Ellis, Colin Slade, Ryan Crotty.


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