Blues prop Charlie Faumuina is poised to make his All Blacks debut after being named on the bench for Saturday’s Investec Super Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Wellington.
Faumuina is joined by four other Blues players in the All Blacks 22.
The All Blacks most capped prop Tony Woodcock returns to action after recovering from rib cartilage damange to start at loosehead, while Keven Mealamu and Ma’a Nonu are also in the starting XV.
Piri Weepu has been named on the bench alongside Faumuina.
The team is as follows: (with Test caps in brackets. * denotes new cap)
1. Tony Woodcock (87)
2. Keven Mealamu (95)
3. Owen Franks (36)
4. Luke Romano (3)
5. Brodie Retallick (5)
6. Victor Vito (14)
7. Richie McCaw – captain (108)†
8. Kieran Read (40)
9. Aaron Smith (5)
10. Daniel Carter (89)
11. Julian Savea (2)
12. Ma’a Nonu (68)
13. Conrad Smith (58)
14. Cory Jane (33)
15. Israel Dagg (17)
16. Andrew Hore (67)
17. Charlie Faumuina *
18. Samuel Whitelock (30)
19. Liam Messam (12)
20. Piri Weepu (61)
21. Aaron Cruden (12)
22. Ben Smith (6)
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “We have been working on constantly improving our game and that has again been our focus this week. We were happy with our intensity and attitude in the last Test against Australia, but not so happy with our execution when we didn’t get the decision-making process right on occasions, so we are looking for improvement in that area this weekend.”
Hansen said it was exciting having Argentina in the new Investec Rugby Championship and the All Blacks were under no illusion of how tough the Test would be.
“It is going to be very physical, especially up front where they are traditionally very strong. We also have immense respect for their backline abilities plus they have one of the best defensive structures in modern rugby. †They are always looking to work as a unit to shut you down,” Hansen added.
The All Blacks have played Argentina in 14 Tests since 1985, with the last Test the 2011 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal match which the All Blacks won 33 -10. The All Blacks have won 13 times with a 21-all draw in 1985.
The current All Blacks squad have had little experience playing Argentina, compared to other international opponents. All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw, hooker Andrew Hore and prop Tony Woodcock have played them just three times in their long All Blacks careers.