New Zealand selects 4 new caps for spot test with Tonga
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – Chiefs center Quinn Tupaea will make his test debut on Saturday in New Zealand’s single game against Tonga.
Tupaea will combine midfielder with regular winger Rieko Ioane as the All Blacks face a shortage of specialist centers. Jack Goodhue is out for the season with a knee injury, David Havili has an elbow injury, Braydon Ennor is sidelined and Ngani Laumape has taken on a contract in France after being repeatedly ignored by the coaches of the ‘National team.
Backrower Ethan Blackadder, mainstay George Bower and Scottish scrum half Finlay Christie are the three unselected players on the New Zealand bench for Saturday’s game in Auckland.
Blackadder is the son of former All Blacks backrower and Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder.
Tonga have selected nine new caps in their starting XI and four more on the bench for the test which is the last before facing Samoa in a two-match World Cup qualifying series.
The Tonga squad includes a brand new back row including Solomone Funaki, who played for New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay Province, Wellington’s Mateaki Kafatolu and Auckland’s Sione Tu’ipolotu.
Nikolai Foliaki and New Zealand’s Fine Inisi will make their debut in midfield. Scrum-half Sonatane Takulua, who plays for Toulon in France after spending five years with English club Newcastle, will be the team captain.
The All Blacks will be led by lockdown veteran Sam Whitelock – playing his 123rd test – in the absence of Sam Cane, who is suffering from a pectoral injury.
Luke Jacobson will start his third test at No.8, with Dalton Papalii’s pair of Blues on the open flank and Akira Ioane on the blind side.
“Dalton gets an award for a great (Super Rugby) campaign this year,” said head coach Ian Foster. “In Akira’s case, he started at six years old last year and it’s a chance for him to slow down. Luke played really well for the Chiefs and he’s back in great shape.
Scrum-half Brad Weber will also start for the first time on his eighth try, in combination with opener Richie Mo’unga. Damian McKenzie was named at the back with Crusaders teammates George Bridge and Will Jordan on the wings.
All three Barrett brothers are in the squad on game day with Scott starting second and Beauden and Jordie on the bench.
The All Blacks will play their first test in 2021 after a disappointing 2020 season that included a historic first loss to Argentina.
“Our whole group is excited,” said Foster. “After COVID disrupted our season last year, we felt a bit removed from our fans, playing most of our games away from home, so what’s ahead for us this weekend is very exciting.”
New Zealand will also play two home tests this month against Fiji.
New Zealand: Damian McKenzie, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Quinn Tupaea, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Brad Weber; Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papalii, Akira Ioane, Sam Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Angus Ta’avao, Dane Coles, Karl Tu’inukuafe. Reserves: Asafo Aumua, George Bower, Tyrel Lomax, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ethan Blackadder, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett.
Tonga: James Faiva, Hosea Saumaki, Fine Inisi, Nikolai Foliaki, Penikolo Latu, Kailone Hala, Sonatane Takulua (captain); Sione Tu’ipulotu, Solomone Funaki, Mateaki Kafatolu, Zane Kapeli, Don Lolo, Sila Puafisi, Sam Moli, Duke Nginingini. Reserves: Siua Maile, Jethro Felemi, Tau Koloamatangi, Harrison Mataele, Viliami Taulani, Nasi Manu, Leon Fukofuka, Walter Fifita.
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