Charlie Faumuina and Jerome Kaino will be starting against Georgia in the All Blacks’ third pool match of the Rugby World Cup at Millenium Stadium, Cardiff on Friday night (Saturday, 8am NZT).
Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu will support from the bench.
The team is: (with Test caps in brackets):
1. Wyatt Crockett (42)
2. Dane Coles (31)
3. Charlie Faumuina (29)
4. Brodie Retallick (42)
5. Samuel Whitelock (68)
6. Jerome Kaino (62)
7. Richie McCaw – captain (144)
8. Kieran Read (79)
9. Aaron Smith (42)
10. Daniel Carter (107)
11. Julian Savea (37)
12. Sonny Bill Williams (28)
13. Conrad Smith (89)
14. Waisake Naholo (1)
15. Ben Smith (43)
16. Keven Mealamu (127)
17. Tony Woodcock (116)
18. Owen Franks (73)
19. Victor Vito (30)
20. Sam Cane (26)
21. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (16)
22. TJ Perenara (16)
23. Malakai Fekitoa (12)
The team features the eagerly-awaited Rugby World Cup debut of winger Waisake Naholo, who made his All Blacks Test debut against Argentina in The Rugby Championship in July this year.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “We’ve selected what we think is the best 23 for this Test match and reflects where we currently are with our progress in the Rugby World Cup.
“We’re looking forward to seeing Waisake back on the track, he’s been jumping out of his skin at training and I’m sure he can’t wait for game day.”
Four players weren’t considered for selection for the Georgia Test due to injury: Ma’a Nonu (shoulder), Colin Slade (hamstring), Liam Messam (calf) and Beauden Barrett (whiplash).
Hansen said with only one fit first five-eighth available, TJ Perenara would cover that role off the bench, if needed.
“While it’s disappointing to have Beauden, Colin, Ma’a and Liam unavailable for selection, their injuries are minor and they’re all expected to be available for selection next week.
“This game gives us an opportunity to build on our previous performances against an opposition who have proven to be very physical in their two matches. Although we don’t know a lot about them, we know enough. They’re big, strong athletes and should contribute to what will be a great occasion at Millennium Stadium. I know everyone in our group is looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, Steve Hansen has also paid tribute to All Blacks Assistant Manager Gilbert Enoka, who will be involved in his 200th All Blacks Test match this weekend. Hansen said Enoka, who first started working with the All Blacks in 2000, was a very important cog in the wheel of the All Blacks machine.
“His contribution is highly valued by all players and management and to be associated with a team for 200 Test matches is a huge achievement, one I’m sure he and his family are very proud of, as we are of him.”