All Blacks team for final Test against Wales
Three new All Blacks in matchday 23
The All Blacks side to play the third and final Test of the Steinlager Series against Wales at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, this Saturday 25 June, has been named, with new All Black Elliot Dixon picked to start at blindside flanker, and two other possible new caps, prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi and loose forward Liam Squire, named on the bench.
The matchday 23 is (with Test caps in brackets. New All Blacks are in bold):
1. Joe Moody (13)
2. Dane Coles (38)
3. Charlie Faumuina (35)
4. Brodie Retallick (49)
5. Samuel Whitelock (74)
6. Elliot Dixon
7. Sam Cane (33)
8. Kieran Read – captain (86)
9. Aaron Smith (49)
10. Beauden Barrett (38)
11. Julian Savea (42)
12. Ryan Crotty (17)
13. George Moala (1)
14. Ben Smith (50)
15. Israel Dagg (50)
16. Codie Taylor (4)
17. Wyatt Crockett (47)
18. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
19. Luke Romano (23)
20. Liam Squire
21. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (20)
22. Lima Sopoaga (1)
23. Waisake Naholo (5)
26-year-old Dixon comes in for Jerome Kaino on the side of the scrum, with Squire coming into the match-day 23 for Ardie Savea as loose forward cover. Prop Charlie Faumuina replaces Owen Franks in the number three jersey, with 24-year-old Tu’ungafasi coming into the 23.
In the backs, Beauden Barrett is at first five-eighth, replacing the injured Aaron Cruden, with Lima Sopoaga the 10 reserve; George Moala will start at centre in his second Test replacing the injured Malakai Fekitoa; and Julian Savea is back in the 11 jersey, with Waisake Naholo moving to the bench as outside back cover. In other changes to the matchday 23, Codie Taylor has been named at replacement hooker, Luke Romano comes in as lock cover and Tawera Kerr-Barlow is the replacement halfback.
It will be a special night also for lock Brodie Retallick and Aaron Smith, who will play their 50th Tests for the All Blacks. The pair made their Test debuts in the same Test, against Ireland in June 2012.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said, in selecting the side, the selectors had to take into consideration the need to find out more about the squad.
“With the Series won, it came down to risk and reward and we felt the rewards of seeing these new players in the Test arena, after watching them for three weeks on the training pitch, outweighed any risks. It’ll be exciting to see these new players making their mark for the first time in the black jersey.
“That said, we’re expecting another brutal Test match, with the expectation that Wales will again chuck the kitchen sink at us. We’ve seen over the last two Tests that they’re a very good side who play physical, combative and innovative rugby. Our own expectations are as high as ever and we’ll be looking for continued improvement right across our game.
“We have a further two players playing their 50th Test this weekend. On behalf of the team, we would like to congratulate Aaron and Brodie on reaching this special milestone and they can be rightly proud of everything they have achieved so far in the black jersey.”
Commenting on the Test match atmosphere in Dunedin, Hansen added: “Playing here in Dunedin is always something special because of the enclosed stadium. There’s no need to worry about the weather and it’s always a hard and fast pitch, while the proximity of the crowd also creates an awesome atmosphere.”
Mini biographies – Elliot Dixon, Ofa Tu’uingafasi and Liam Squire
Elliot Dixon has been in impressive, uncompromising form for the Highlanders for several seasons now and the loose forward was one of the stars as his team claimed its first title last year. 26-year-old Dixon made his debut for the Maori All Blacks on the 2012 European Tour and has played nine matches for the side. He has played more than 50 provincial matches for the Southland Stags as well as over 50 games for the Highlanders. He made his Super Rugby debut in 2012 and provincial debut in 2010.
24-year-old Ofa Tu’ungafasi has been in compelling form in 2016, appearing in every game for the Blues heading into the Steinlager Series. Tu’ungafasi was invited into the All Blacks training camp in June 2015 after appearing as one of the Blues’ standout players. He has also represented New Zealand at age grade and secondary schools level. His father Mofuike played for Tonga at the 1987 RWC and his younger brother Isi also plays for Auckland. He made his Super Rugby debut in 2013 and provincial debut in 2012.
Liam Squire is a dynamic loose forward who has benefited from a shift south from the Chiefs to the Highlanders in 2016. Originally from Manawatu, where he attended Palmerston North Boys’ High School, 25-year-old Squire made his provincial rugby debut in 2011 for the Tasman Makos. He trained with the All Blacks in 2014 and in 2015 missed just one game for the Makos, with his strong ball-carrying coming to the fore. A keen outdoors man, Squire has also played for the Maori All Blacks. He made his Super Rugby debut in 2014.
Key points of interest
* Samuel Whitelock will play his 75th Test. He is the third most capped All Blacks lock behind Ian Jones (79) and Ali Williams (77).
* Beauden Barrett scored his tenth try for the All Blacks last weekend, and has now scored 156 Test points and is 17th on the all-time All Blacks points-scoring list.
* Dane Coles will play his 200th first-class match while Israel Dagg and Ryan Crotty will play their 199th.
* The Steinlager Series is an official sell-out: 29,000 fans will pack Forsyth Barr Stadium this weekend for the final Test of the Series.
* The current All Blacks coaching team has overseen a current record of 51 wins, three losses and two draws since 2012.
Steinlager Series Tests against Wales
1. ALL BLACKS 39 WALES 21. Sat 11 June, Eden Park, AUCKLAND
2. ALL BLACKS 36 WALES 22. Sat 18 June, Westpac Stadium, WELLINGTON
3. ALL BLACKS vs. WALES. Sat 25 June, 7.35PM, Forsyth Barr Stadium, DUNEDIN