Three debutants for All Blacks

2012-06-06 21:28
Aaron Smith (File)

Auckland - Wing Julian Savea, scrumhalf Aaron Smith and lock Brodie Retallick will make their Test debuts for the All Blacks on Saturday when the World Cup champions start a three-Test rugby series against Ireland.

The trio was included Thursday in the first test team announced by newly appointed New Zealand coach Steve Hansen. It will be New Zealand's first Test since beating France 8-7 in last year's Rugby World Cup final.

Hansen has also picked Sonny Bill Williams ahead of Ma'a Nonu at inside centre, ending the partnership with Conrad Smith, New Zealand's most experienced midfield combination. Victor Vito has claimed the blindside flank role left by Jerome Kaino's departure for Japan.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney later named two new caps in his lineup for the match. Wing Simon Zebo, the youngest member of the Irish squad at 22, will make his debut along with tighthead prop Declan Fitzpatrick, who replaces the injured Mike Ross.

Veteran centre and captain Brian O'Driscoll will return from injury to form a new midfield partnership with Keith Earls in an Ireland team which has an average age of 26. Jonathan Sexton starts at flyhalf with veteran Ronan O'Gara on the bench.

Dan Tuohy will make his first starting appearance for Ireland at lock, two years after making his Test debut against New Zealand as a replacement.

Hansen took over as All Blacks coach after acting as an assistant for seven years under Graham Henry, who stepped down after the World Cup victory last October. Hansen has begun his reign as head coach with a relatively conservative selection, working his three new caps into a framework of massive experience.

Captain Richie McCaw will make his 104th Test appearance, extending his record as New Zealand's most-capped player, and Carter will become the country's most capped No 10 when he plays his 71st Test at flyhalf.

The frontrow of Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore and Owen Franks has a combined 176 Tests.

Smith, who plays for Highlanders, was chosen ahead of Piri Weepu with the World Cup-winning scrumhalf on the bench following a Super Rugby season in which he was hampered by a lack of fitness and form. Smith was preferred to Test players Andy Ellis and Jimmy Cowan.

Savea has earned his first Test call-up after an outstanding season for the Hurricanes. The 21-year-old former New Zealand sevens player is 1.90 metres tall and weighs 104 kilograms and has pace as well as strength.

The 21-year-old Retallick steps into the vacancy left by the departure for Ireland of Brad Thorn. He will become the second youngest All Blacks lock, two days older than Mark Cooksley, who was 21 years, 7 days old when he made his debut in 1992.

Hansen said the three newcomers had earned their Test debuts due to their form throughout the Super Rugby season.

"We picked them because they have all shown that they have special qualities, which they now get the opportunity to show on the international stage," he said. "The build-up so far this week has been good. With such a short preparation time, we have focused on keeping things simple and bringing the team together.

"We have been concentrating on making sure we have clarity early in the week, increasing intensity and accuracy as the week goes on, which should allow us to put in a performance that we can be proud of on Saturday."

Williams has been given a rare opportunity to start in an All Blacks backline, breaking up Nonu's partnership with Smith. Nonu has been out of form this season after transferring from the Hurricanes to the Blues, who are last in the Super Rugby.

Vito has the first chance to lay claim to the No 6 jersey after being chosen ahead of Adam Thomson.

Zac Guildford, who plays on the left wing for the Crusaders, has been picked on the right wing in the absence of Cory Jane and Richard Kahui, who are both injured. He will play his ninth Test after confronting the alcohol issues which cost him his place last year.


New Zealand:

15 Israel Dagg, 14 Zac Guildford, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Victor Vito, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock

Substitutes: 16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Ben Smith


15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 12 Keith Earls, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Dan Touhy, 3 Declan Fitzpatrick, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy

Substitutes: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Donncha O'Callaghan, 19 Kevin McLaughlin, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Darren Cave

Read more on:    all blacks  |  rugby

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