The All Blacks team has been named to play Tonga in the historic opening match of the Steinlager Series at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, on Saturday 3 July (kick-off 7.05PM), with four uncapped All Blacks named in the matchday 23.
The team is (Test caps in brackets. New Test caps in bold):
1: Karl Tu’inukuafe (17)
2: Dane Coles (74)
3: Angus Ta’avao (14)
4: Scott Barrett (36)
5: Samuel Whitelock (122) – captain
6: Akira Ioane (2)
7: Dalton Papalii (4)
8: Luke Jacobson (2)
9: Brad Weber (7)
10: Richie Mo’unga (22)
11: George Bridge (10)
12: Quinn Tupaea (new cap)
13: Rieko Ioane (33)
14: Will Jordan (2)
15: Damian McKenzie (27)
16: Asafo Aumua (1)
17: George Bower (new cap)
18: Tyrel Lomax (6)
19: Patrick Tuipulotu (35)
20: Ethan Blackadder (new cap)
21: Finlay Christie (new cap)
22: Beauden Barrett (88)
23: Jordie Barrett (23)
Four uncapped All Blacks have been named in the side: Quinn Tupaea will start at second five-eighth, with prop George Bower, loose forward Ethan Blackadder and halfback Finlay Christie set to make their Test debuts from the bench.
The experienced hooker Dane Coles will start in his 75th Test alongside props Karl Tu’inukuafe and the returning Angus Ta’avao. Hooker Asafo Aumua will provide impact off the bench in his second Test, with Tyrel Lomax the other reserve prop alongside Bower.
Scott Barrett and Captain Samuel Whitelock are starting locks, with Patrick Tuipulotu coming off the bench. In the loose forwards, Akira Ioane is at six and Dalton Papalii is in the number seven jersey, and it’s a welcome return to the All Blacks for Luke Jacobson, who will start at number eight.
In the backs, Brad Weber will make his first Test start in his eighth Test, inside Richie Mo’unga at ten, while Rieko Ioane will provide experienced support at centre outside Tupaea. George Bridge returns to the All Blacks side on the left wing with Will Jordan on the right and Damian McKenzie at fullback. The other back reserves alongside Christie are Jordie and Beauden Barrett.
All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster said the chance to play a first Test at home was “pretty special” especially for the newer players selected.
“It’s fantastic that Quinn, George, Ethan and Finlay have an opportunity and we’re excited for them, especially playing in front of a home crowd.
Commenting on the make-up of the loose forward trio, Foster added: “Dalton gets a reward for a great campaign this year. In Akira’s case, he started at six last year and it’s a chance for him to put a marker down. Luke played very well for the Chiefs and he is back in great form.”
Foster also said Jordie Barrett would cover the midfield from the bench. “He is excited by that. We know where he will play long term but he’s a great utility player to have.”
After a truncated season last year, Foster said the team was energised by what lay ahead, especially playing a first-ever All Blacks Test at Mt Smart Stadium.
“Our whole group is excited. After Covid disrupted our season last year we felt a little bit distanced from our fans playing most of our games overseas, so what’s in front of us this weekend is very exciting.”
New All Blacks – mini bios
Born: 10 May 1999
Position: Midfield back
Height, weight: 186cm, 97kg
Quinn Tupaea announced his arrival on the provincial scene for Waikato in 2018 after starring at Hamilton Boys’ High School and as New Zealand Schools captain. A powerful runner and skilful with ball in hand, he started in 11 of his 12 appearances that season and was named Waikato Emerging Player of the Year. He took his outstanding form in his debut season with the Chiefs in 2020 and was named Chiefs Rookie of the Year. The club has signed him through to 2023. Tupaea also played for the Māori All Blacks against Moana Pasifika last year.
Born: 28 May 1992
Height, weight: 183cm, 115kg
Born in Lower Hutt, prop George Bower can cover both tighthead and loosehead and began his rugby playing for the Avalon club and worked his way through the ranks, playing for the Wellington Under 20 team in 2011 before moving to Dunedin to train as a teacher. He played for Otago B and one game for the top team in 2014 as an injury replacement but it wasn’t until 2018 that he managed to get more regular games. Things moved quickly for the hard-working prop and he was then signed by the Crusaders, helping the team to two Super titles. He was first called into the All Blacks as injury cover in 2020.
Born: 22 March 1995
Position: Loose forward
Height, weight: 190cm, 111kg
The son of former All Blacks captain Todd Blackadder, Ethan hails from North Canterbury originally but attended Nelson College. Blackadder was called into the Tasman provincial team in 2016 after a stellar club season. He became a regular starter for Tasman in 2017 as they made their way to the Premiership Final and in 2019, Blackadder helped the side secure its first provincial title. With the ability to play both lock and in the loose forwards, the versatile player made his Crusaders debut in 2018 and has 20 appearances for the Super side.
Born: 19 September 1994
Height, weight: 177cm, 82kg
Born in Scotland, Christie moved to New Zealand aged seven and attended St Kentigern’s College in Auckland before heading to Canterbury to study. He made his provincial debut for Tasman in 2016 and his eye-catching form saw him offered a Chiefs contract in 2017. He played one season for the Chiefs before becoming a key player in Tasman’s run to the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership Final in 2017. He played for the Hurricanes in 2018-2019 and then moved home to the Blues for the 2020 season. Christie is also a former New Zealand gymnastics representative.
The 2021 Steinlager Series
- All Blacks vs Tonga, 7.05PM, Saturday 3 July, plus Māori All Blacks vs Manu Samoa (kick-off 4.30PM), Mt Smart Stadium, AUCKLAND
- All Blacks vs Fiji, 7.05PM, Saturday 10 July, Forsyth Barr Stadium, DUNEDIN
- All Blacks vs Fiji, 7.05PM, Saturday 17 July, plus Tonga vs Samoa (kick-off 4.00PM) FMG Stadium Waikato, HAMILTON