Four Tests in four weeks is like a Rugby World Cup schedule for the All Blacks and Samoa provide a welcome opportunity for both sides to test systems ahead of their respective campaigns in the American Express Pasifika Challenge.
All Blacks v Samoa, Eden Park, 16 June, 2017, 7.35pm
TALE OF THE TAPE
The All Blacks and Samoa have met six times since their first Test at Eden Park in 1993 when New Zealand won 35-13. The contests have tended to be one-sided with the All Blacks posting a century of points at New Plymouth in the 101-14 win in 2008. However, playing at home against New Zealand for the first time in 2015, Samoa used the occasion to have one of their finest contests with the All Blacks before going down 16-25. One of the anomalies between the sides is that they have never met in a Rugby World Cup game.
Samoa are looking for a barometer of where they are at ahead of their Pacific Nations campaign to claim a Rugby World Cup berth and with only one new cap named in their side, former Crusader and Tasman centre Keiron Fonotia, they are clear in their intent. Eighteen of the players have come back from Europe for the campaign with Tim Nanai-Williams the only active Super Rugby player in the side. But there are also names well known to New Zealand players and fans: prop Census Johnston, lock Chris Vui, flanker Jack Lam, No.8 Faifili Levave, halfback Kahn Foutali’i, first five-eighths Tusi Pusi and second five-eighths Alapati Leiua. Like New Zealand they will be looking to achieve combinations quickly, but with the prize of their World Cup campaign, the Samoans won’t be lacking inspiration for performance.
Shaking off cobwebs, getting rid of rust. However, it is described is what this Test is about for both teams at the start of significant campaigns. From an All Blacks point of view it is how hooker Codie Taylor settles into his role, and his lineout throwing combination with locks Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick and also flanker Jerome Kaino and No.8 Ardie Savea. In the loose it is about how quickly Kaino gets into game mode with Savea and Sam Cane. Behind the scrum the liaison between halfback Aaron Smith and first five-eighths Beauden Barrett will be closely monitored while the main area of interest will centre on how Sonny Bill Williams and Anton Lienert-Brown gel in the midfield. Behind them the back combination of captain and fullback Ben Smith, and wings Israel Dagg and Julian Savea will be all about getting their messages collated.
2015: New Zealand won 25-16 in Apia
2008: New Zealand 101-14 in New Plymouth
2001: New Zealand won 50-6 in Albany
1999: New Zealand won 71-13 in Albany
1996: New Zealand won 51-10 in Napier
1993: New Zealand won 35-13 in Auckland
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Vaea Fifita, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Jordie Barrett
Samoa: 15 Ah See Tuala, 14 Albert Nikoro, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Tim Nanai-Williams, 10 Tusiata Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Faifili Levave, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Faatiga Lemalu, 4 Chris Vui, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Maatulimanu Leiataua, 1 Viliamu Afatia
Replacements: 16 Seilala Lam, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Taiasina Tuifua, 20 Alafoti Faosiliva, 21 Auvasa Falealii, 22 D’Angelo Leuila, 23 Ken Pisi
Date: Friday, June 16
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-Off: 20:00 local (08:00 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)