Auckland, June 15, 2017
All Blacks team announced to play Samoa in the American Express Pasifika Challenge
Ben Smith named as captain in his 61st Test.
The All Blacks team to play Samoa in the American Express Pasifika Challenge on Friday (June 16) night at Eden Park has been named with new All Blacks Jordie Barrett and Vaea Fifita set to make their Test debuts from the bench and Ben Smith named as run-on captain for the first time.
Smith, the All Blacks Vice-Captain, will lead the team in his 61st Test and will be the 68th player to captain the national side in a Test.
The match day 23 is (with Test caps in brackets. * denotes new cap):
Joe Moody (24) Codie Taylor (15) Owen Franks (90) Brodie Retallick (60); Samuel Whitelock (84); Jerome Kaino (77) Sam Cane (40; Ardie Savea (12); Aaron Smith (58);
Beauden Barrett (49); Julian Savea (52); Sonny Bill Williams (33); Anton Lienert-Brown (9); Israel Dagg (61); Ben Smith – Captain (60); Nathan Harris (4); Wyatt Crockett (58)
Charlie Faumuina (46); Scott Barrett (4); Vaea Fifita* T J Perenara (29); Lima Sopoaga (6); Jordie Barrett *
It will be a milestone match for Beauden Barrett, with the first five-eighth to run out in his 50th Test. The match day 23 also sees the return of midfielder Sonny Bill Williams in his first game back since the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham. Hooker Nathan Harris also makes a long-awaited return to Test rugby after being injured last August.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen issued the following statement:
We would like to congratulate everyone who has been selected for this Test, particularly ‘Benda’ (Ben Smith), who will captain the side for the first time. He has been our Vice-Captain for a few years now and captain of the Highlanders, where he has been doing a fantastic job, so was the logical choice. He leads by example and is an inspiration to his teammates.
It would be a big night for Jordie and Vaea as they’re both likely to play a part on the night. They’ve both been in great form and we’re looking forward to seeing what they can do at this level.
Whilst we asked for this game to help us prepare for the DHL New Zealand Lions Series, once it became a reality, it then took on its own importance – this is a Test match against a quality and very capable opponent. Samoa is about to kick off the qualifying stage of their Rugby World Cup campaign, so this will make them even more dangerous. The Samoans are always a challenge and will play with a high level of physicality and skill. At the very minimum, we will need to match that.
“This first week has been about bringing together the players from the five different Super clubs and reintroducing them to the All Blacks way. We’ve had a good week and are really looking forward to this match.
It would be a unique night with two Tests being played at the same venue featuring four teams that are well known to New Zealand fans. It’s a night that shouldn’t be missed, as I’m picking there will be a lot of great rugby played so get on down there and show your support.”
To watch Steve Hansen and Ben Smith talk about the Samoa Test, click here.
Tickets to the American Express Pasifika Challenge are still available from ticketmaster.co.nz or 0800-111999. Gates at Eden Park open at 430 pm with the Tonga-Wales Test kicking off at 5.30PM and the All Blacks-Manu Samoa Test starting at 8 pm.
The All Blacks match day 23 has a total of 871Test caps.
This will be the seventh Test match between the All Blacks and Manu Samoa. The last Test was the closely-fought contest in Apia in 2015 which the All Blacks won 25-16.
Beauden Barrett currently has 297 Test points and is poised to be the fifth All Black to score 300 Test points.
Winger Julian Savea has scored 45 Test tries, just four behind Doug Howlett’s record of 49 tries.
Prop Wyatt Crockett currently has a record of 47 consecutive tests without defeat
Sheevas Dayal is our Rugby Correspondent. He lives in Auckland.