All Blacks pick side to face Samoa

2015-07-05 22:52
Steve Hansen (Gallo Images)

Wellington - Wing George Moala will make his Test debut and veteran scrumhalf Andy Ellis earns a recall after a four-year absence in the All Blacks team for Wednesday's historic Test against Samoa.

Moala and Ellis, whose last Test was the 2011 World Cup final, are among nine players who were added to a 41-man pre-World Cup squad to compensate for injuries and the unavailability of 17 players involved in Saturday's Super 15 final.

Three other late additions - Nepo Laulala, Brad Weber and Charlie Ngatai - are set to make their debuts off the bench in the team named Monday before the All Blacks departed for Apia.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has said he wants to field as many players as possible either against Samoa or in the Rugby Championship Tests against South Africa, Australia and Argentina before his World Cup squad is named at the end of August.

He described Samoa as an "ideal challenge" to start their build up and has taken no chances with his forwards selection naming an eight with a combined 634 caps.

It is the same Richie McCaw-led pack that started the World Cup final four years ago with the exception of the now retired Brad Thorn whose place is taken by Luke Romano who already has 17 Tests under his belt.

However, the backline has more of an experimental look given the absence of several seasoned players from the Hurricanes and Highlanders who were involved in the Super rugby final.

Israel Dagg has won the fullback slot despite missing most of the Super rugby season because of injury.

Outside scrumhalf Ellis is Test centurion Dan Carter to guide a backline with Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty in the centres and Charles Piutau on the left wing and Moala on the right.

"It's really important we establish this is a big Test. If we rock up there thinking it's about sunscreen and a holiday we will get thumped," Hansen said, adding it would ideally take the All Blacks out of their comfort zone ahead of the World Cup.

"It presents us with things that we haven't had in front of us before, which I find great. I love those challenges because you find out about people in different circumstances. How well do they cope? How well don't they?

"When we have to name this (World Cup) team we want the people on the bus with the best mental fortitude in the group because it's going to take a lot of mental fortitude to win the world Cup."

Wednesday's Test will be the first time the All Blacks have played Samoa in Samoa with the fixture agreed after intense media pressure in New Zealand for the World champions to do more for Pacific island rugby.

The All Blacks have won all five Tests played against Samoa in New Zealand, with the closest result being 35-13 in the inaugural match in 1993 and the biggest margin being the 101-14 scoreline in the most recent Test in 2008.

All Blacks

15 Israel Dagg, 14 George Moala, 13 Sonny Bill Williams, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock

Substitutes: 16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Charlie Ngatai

Read more on:    all blacks  |  andy ellis  |  rugby

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