The All Blacks side to play the opening Bledisloe Cup match in the Investec Rugby Championship at ANZ Stadium, Sydney, on Saturday, has been named, with prop Kane Hames named on the replacement bench.
The 27-year-old Tasman and Chiefs prop Kane Hames came into the All Blacks squad as an injury replacement for Joe Moody and will become the sixth new All Black of 2016 and All Black number 1152 if he takes the field, as expected, off the bench on Saturday.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “The selectors are very happy with the 23 selected for this Test match and we’re looking forward to seeing them play. This Test match will be another stepping stone in the re-establishment of this group on the international stage and we know that Australia will throw everything at us, which is what Test rugby is all about. With more than 800 Test caps of experience in our matchday 23, I’m confident we have the experience to deal with the challenge.”
Hansen added: “This week has been about getting our preparation and attitude dead right and, therefore, there’s an expectation that this group will bring real intensity, physicality and a high level of skill execution come Saturday.
“We’re all really excited about this first Investec Rugby Championship Test match. It’s against one of our most respected rivals and the Championship itself is one of the best competitions in the world. It produces an exciting brand of rugby and world-class players, which both teams have.
“We’re also playing for the Bledisloe Cup, which, after the Rugby World Cup, is probably the most important trophy we play for. Both teams will be desperate to get their hands on it which will create added pressure. It’s about embracing that pressure and taking it on.
“Our attitude has always been – and still is – that we don’t hold the Bledisloe Cup by right; we have to go out and earn the right to take it. As a group, we’re really looking forward to this challenge on Saturday.”
The matchday 23 is Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Ryan Crotty, Waisake Naholo, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett.
Reserves: Codie Taylor, Kane Hames, Charlie Faumuina, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Julian Savea.
– African News Agency (ANA)