Livewire Blues midfielder Francis Saili will make his Test debut on Saturday night when the All Blacks face Argentina in Hamilton.
Saili is joined by fellow Blues players Charlie Faumuina and Steven Luatua in the starting XV, while Charles Piutau is named on the bench.
The team is (Test caps in brackets):
1. Tony Woodcock (100)
2. Andrew Hore (78)
3. Charlie Faumuina (9)
4. Brodie Retallick (16)
5. Samuel Whitelock (43)
6. Steven Luatua (3)
7. Richie McCaw – captain (118)
8. Kieran Read (53)
9. Aaron Smith (17)
10. Daniel Carter (95)
11. Julian Savea (13)
12. Francis Saili *
13. Conrad Smith (71)
14. Ben Smith (17)
15. Israel Dagg (30)
16. Dane Coles (7)
17. Wyatt Crockett (15)
18. Ben Franks (26)
19. Jeremy Thrush (2)
20. Sam Cane (9)
21. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (6)
22. Beauden Barrett (9)
23. Charles Piutau (2)
The starting 23 features 739 Test caps and features two injury-enforced changes from the team that won the Bledisloe Cup two weeks ago in Wellington: prop Charlie Faumuina comes into the starting XV for the injured Owen Franks and Saili replaces Ma’a Nonu at second five-eighth.†
Daniel Carter returns to the number 10 jersey in his 96th Test with Beauden Barrett also returning to the match day 23, replacing Colin Slade on the bench. †Prop Ben Franks also comes onto the bench.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “With Ma’a’s ongoing niggly ankle we have taken the opportunity to rest him and introduce Francis to international rugby and we want to congratulate him on his selection. We have complete faith in his ability to do the job. †He is a very exciting, young player who has a multi-talented skillset that should suit Test rugby.
“It’s also pleasing to see the return of both Dan and Beauden from their enforced injury layoffs. Their experience and skillsets will obviously be a great advantage to the All Blacks.
“With regard to the Argentinians, we are expecting a very physical encounter but also one that will see them use the flair and talent of their backline. †It is a challenge that we are looking forward to and we are also looking forward to playing in Hamilton. As always, we have put a huge focus on our preparation and we know that anything less will not be good enough to get the performance that we are looking for.”
Mini biography – Francis Saili
22-year-old Francis Saili was selected for the All Blacks after starring for the Blues at second five-eighth in 2013, earning his selection with a bustling display of strength and skill in the midfield. Saili was part of the New Zealand Under 20 team that won the Junior World Championship in Italy in 2011.
* Francis Saili will become All Black number 1126 this weekend and become the 17th new All Black introduced to Test rugby in the last two seasons.
* The All Blacks have played Argentina 16 times since 1985, with 15 wins to New Zealand and a draw.†
* Daniel Carter has 1399 points in Test matches – so his first points will see him become the first player to reach 1400 points in Test matches. †Carter also has kicked a world record 246 Test conversions and 248 penalty goals. Only England’s Jonny Wilkinson with 255 has kicked more penalties.
* Richie McCaw will play his 48th Rugby Championship / Tri Nations match this weekend, joining former Wallabies halfback George Gregan as the competition’s most capped players.
* The All Blacks have recorded 381 Test wins (out of 503 Tests for a winning percentage of 75.7 percent) and are moving in on France’s record of 382 Test wins (in 695 Tests).