Eight players are set to make their All Blacks debuts this Saturday afternoon against Japan in Tokyo.
Steve Hansen’s expanded 51-man squad has meant that the team has now split into two, with the main test side already on their way to London for the next test against England.
That leaves aside for this weekend light on experience, but Hansen believes it will still be business as usual. Speaking at the team hotel in Tokyo Bay today, he said, “It’s a test match which brings no more apprehension than any other test match. People have been encrusted to enhance the legacy. For them to do that, we have to coach well and give them a platform to do that.”
Centre Matt Proctor from Wellington and Auckland flanker Dalton Papali’i are the new caps in the starting XV, with another six rookies set to come off the bench. Mitch Drummond and Dillon Hunt were both part of the All Black tour squad this time last year, however, appeared in a non-test tour game against France A. The rest of the contingent are made up of Tyrel Lomax, Gareth Evans, Brett Cameron and George Bridge.
Papali’I said that telling his mother that he’d made the side was a special moment.
“My family was really happy. Mum was crying, so that made me pretty speechless.”
Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi will get his first start at halfback, after being in the All Blacks squad all year and coming off the bench once against Argentina during The Rugby Championship.
This Saturday’s match will be another hopefully sunny afternoon kickoff at 2:45pm local time, which will be 6:45pm for fans back in Aotearoa.
All Blacks team to play Japan:
1. Ofa Tuungafasi, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Angus Ta'avao, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu, 5. Jackson Hemopo, 6. Vaea Fifita, 7. Dalton Papalii, 8. Luke Whitelock (c), 9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 10. Richie Mo'unga, 11. Waisake Naholo, 12. Ngani Laumape, 13. Matt Proctor*, 14. Nehe Milner-Skudder, 15. Jordie Barrett
Bench: 16. Liam Coltman, 17. Tim Perry, 18. Tyrel Lomax *, 19. Dillon Hunt *, 20. Gareth Evans *, 21. Mitch Drummond *, 22. Brett Cameron *, 23. George Bridge *