Barnstorming Blues winger Frank Halai will make his All Blacks Test debut after being named in the starting XV to face Japan at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday.
Halai is joined in the starting XV by fellow Blues players Steven Luatua, Francis Saili and Charles Piutau, while Charlie Faumuina is named on the bench.
In the starting XV, Wyatt Crockett, Dane Coles and Ben Franks are in the front row; Bird pairs up with lock Jeremy Thrush in the second row, while in the loose forwards, All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw moves to number eight for this Test, which allows Sam Cane another start at seven and Stephen Luatua is at number six.
In the backs, Tawera Kerr-Barlow gets his first Test start in his 12th Test while Daniel Carter returns from his shoulder injury to take his regular spot in the ten jersey.
In the midfield, Francis Saili starts his second Test start at second five- eighth, inside Ben Smith, who gets another opportunity at centre, while joining Halai in the back three are Charles Piutau on the right wing and Beauden Barrett at fullback.
In the reserves, joining Toomaga-Allen and Whitelock as forward reserves are hooker Andrew Hore, prop Charlie Faumuina and lock Brodie Retallick. †The back reserves are halfback Aaron Smith, Tom Taylor and Ryan Crotty.
The team is (Test caps in brackets. New caps in bold):
1. Wyatt Crockett (20)
2. Dane Coles (11)
3. Ben Franks (29)
4. Jeremy Thrush (4)
5. Dominic Bird *
6. Steven Luatua (8)
7. Sam Cane (13)
8. Richie McCaw – captain (121)
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (10)
10. Daniel Carter (97)
11. Frank Halai *
12. Francis Saili (1)
13. Ben Smith (22)
14. Charles Piutau (7)
15. Beauden Barrett (14)
16. Andrew Hore (81)
17. Jeffery Toomaga-Allen *
18. Charlie Faumuina (14)
19. Brodie Retallick (21)
20. Luke Whitelock *
21. Aaron Smith (22)
22. Tom Taylor (2)
23. Ryan Crotty (1)
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “Firstly, we would like congratulate the new caps in the team. It will be a special day for them and their families. As for the game, we are looking forward to this encounter. †It is a great opportunity for our ‘less capped’ players to drive the All Blacks week and preparation, which will then culminate in Saturday’s performance.
“The three selectors have been very mindful of using this game to gather some more information on our younger players but also using it to provide (Richie) McCaw and (Daniel ) Carter with some game time.
“We are expecting the Japanese to be very competitive and it will be important that we respect them and engage them in the physical aspects of the game before attempting to play too much ‘razzle dazzle’-type rugby. It’s about earning the right to play. If we don’t do this, we can get caught up in the type of game that suits them.”
Commenting on the All Blacks’ build-up in Tokyo, Hansen added: “We have been really well looked after here in Japan, it has been a lovely destination to tour to and the Japanese have been fantastic hosts, which bodes well for Rugby World Cup 2019.
“Finally, the All Blacks would like to again send our best wishes to Japanese coach Eddie Jones for a speedy recovery.”