All Blacks vs Fiji New Zealand Rugby News Aaron Smith Bowden Barrett

Bawden Barrett will start at 58.5 fullback Aaron Smith will lead the All Blacks for the first time when New Zealand meet Fiji in Dunedin on Saturday (5.05pm AEST) in the first of two test matches.

Barrett competes with Richie Muonga for the All Blacks No. 10 jersey after returning from vacation in Japan.

Mo’unga has been New Zealand’s eighth for most of the past two seasons, and Barrett has been integrated with the national team in a double playmaker role.

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Barrett played eighth during his time in Japan and made it clear that at the age of 10 he wanted to play again for the All Blacks.

Mo’unga started at the age of ten in the All Blacks First test of the year against Tonga last week.

Barrett now has a chance to make his claim to the role, with Mo’unga being disqualified from Match 23.

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Damien Mackenzie was named to the bench as a cover.

Smith was selected to lead the All Blacks in his 98th Test, restoring the partnership of the previous two halves with Barrett.

“Aaron is an outstanding player with real mana, a natural leader and his preparation is second to none,” said coach Ian Foster.

Lock Brodie Retallick returns to the squad for the first time in nearly two years after securing a contract in Japan.

He will unite in the second row with Patrick Tuipoloto.

Loose Head prop George Power, and First Tester Ethan Blackdeer will start a Test for the first time after debuting from the bench against Tonga.

Blackadder is the son of All Blacks captain and former Crusaders coach Todd Blackader.

Foster has picked David Haveli and Rico Ewan in another new midfield lineup.

Ewan, a former winger, started off-center play last weekend in partnership with freshman cap Coen Tobaya.

Haveli, usually a linebacker, has been used in midfield this season by the Crusaders in Super Rugby, and the All Blacks have now pressured him into the role.

He will start the first time in his fourth test.

Jordi Barrett will start at full back in three defenses with crossover pair George Bridge and Sifu Reis on the wings.

Will Jordan, who scored five of the Blacks’ first 16 attempts in a 102-0 win over Tonga, was named to the bench.

Highlanders’ Ethan de Groot is likely to make his test debut as a replacement.

“Team Fiji will present a very different challenge than Tonga,” Foster said.

“They are a much more established team made up mainly of players based abroad who are among some of the best in Europe.

“It should be a quick and physical match and our team is excited about what the weekend will bring.”

Inexperienced Simione Kuruvoli will start scrumhalf for Fiji in place of Frank Lomani, who was unable to travel from Australia to New Zealand due to the COVID-19 outbreak in NSW.

The Queensland-based scrumhalf Mosese Sorovi and five-eighth Titi Tila were also affected.

Fiji coach Vern Cotter said Korovoli, who will only be watching Smith in his second game for Fiji, “has a great boot to fill but he’s trained well, speaks and communicates well with Ben Fulafola plus he’s got Kenny Moremirofalo at full-back who will also guide him.” .

Cotter said Seta Tuicuvu will start on the bench as a cover back and half-back.

“He is a talented player.” Cotter said.

“He doesn’t talk much but he played very well at full back during training and we liked enough to be on the bench.”

Fiji named an experienced front pack with Peni Ravia, Sam Matavei and Mesake Doge in the front row, Leone Nakarawa in Lock and Albert Tuisue in the backrow.

“The return of Leon Nakarawa to the team helped cement the line-up and lines of communication because he brings experience,” Cotter said.

“Some young players were picked off the bench like Peni Narisia who plays for Brive, he played really well and impressed us.”

The Crusaders’ unobstructed winger Manasa Mataele and Enrico Poliruaruwa were included on the bench.

All blacks (15-1): Jordi Barrett, Sivo Reese, Rico Ewan, David Haveli, George Bridge, Bowden Barrett, Aaron Smith (centre), Hoskins Sototo, Ethan Blackader, Shannon Frizzell, Brody Ritalik, Patrick Tuipuluto, Nebo Laulala, Cody Taylor, George Bauer

Protectorates: Dean Coles, Ethan de Groot, Trail Lomax, Sam Whitelock, Luke Jacobson, Finley Christie, Damien Mackenzie, Will Jordan

Fiji (15-1): Kenny Moremorivalo, Eroni Sau, Weisia Nayakalevu, Levani Boutia (c), Nemane Nadolo, Ben Fulafola, Simeone Korovoli, Albit Toiso, Meisulam Konavola, Johnny Dyer, Leon Nakarawa, Timo Mayanavanua, Mizaki Doji, Samuel Matafisi, Benny

Protectorates: Benny Narcia, Hayriti Hetit, Leroy Atalevo, Tevita Ratova, Bessele Yato, Setariki Tekovo, Enrico Boleruarua, Manasa Matali

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