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All Blacks team named for Steinlager Series Test against Fiji

Aaron Smith to captain team; Ethan de Groot set to make
Test debut from the bench

Photo:  Getty Images

The All Blacks team has been named to play Fiji in the second match of the Steinlager Series at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, on Saturday 10 July (kick-off 7.05PM).

The matchday 23 is (Test caps in brackets. New Test caps in bold):

  1. George Bower (1)
  2. Codie Taylor (56)
  3. Nepo Laulala (29)
  4. Patrick Tuipulotu (37)
  5. Brodie Retallick (81)
  6. Shannon Frizell (13)
  7. Ethan Blackadder (1)
  8. Hoskins Sotutu (5)
  9. Aaron Smith (97) – captain
  10. Beauden Barrett (89)
  11. George Bridge (11)
  12. David Havili (3)
  13. Rieko Ioane (35)
  14. Sevu Reece (8)
  15. Jordie Barrett (24)
  16. Dane Coles (75)
  17. Ethan de Groot – new cap
  18. Tyrel Lomax (7)
  19. Samuel Whitelock (123)
  20. Luke Jacobson (3)
  21. Finlay Christie (1)
  22. Damian McKenzie (28)
  23. Will Jordan (3)

It will be a special night for halfback Aaron Smith, who will captain the All Blacks for the first time in his 98th Test, and prop Ethan de Groot, who has been named on the bench.

The All Blacks selectors have made full use of their squad in naming the team to play Fiji in the first of two Tests.

In the starting front row, George Bower moves from his bench Test debut last week to make his first Test start at loosehead prop, alongside hooker Codie Taylor and tighthead Nepo Laulala, who will be playing his 30th Test. Tyrel Lomax again provides prop cover, alongside de Groot, on the bench.

81-Test lock Brodie Retallick makes his eagerly-awaited return to the All Blacks matchday 23, starting alongside Patrick Tuipulotu, with Samuel Whitelock moving to the bench.

In the loose forwards, Ethan Blackadder moves from the bench to make his first Test start in the seven jersey, Shannon Frizell is at blindside flanker and Hoskins Sotutu is at eight. Luke Jacobson provides loose forward cover in the 20 jersey.

In the backs, Beauden Barrett will don the 10 jersey and is playing his 90th Test, while David Havili is back in black, picked at 12. It will be his first Test start in his fourth Test match. Rieko Ioane is at centre for his third start at 13. George Bridge retains his spot on the left wing, Sevu Reece is on the right and Jordie Barrett is at fullback in his 25th Test. Providing back cover from the bench are Finlay Christie, Damian McKenzie and Will Jordan.

On Smith’s captaincy, All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster said: “Aaron is a special player with real mana and a natural leader and his preparation is second to none. I’m sure he, his wife Teagan and his wider whānau will be proud of what he has achieved.

“We also want to congratulate Ethan on his selection. It’ll be a great occasion for him and his family and friends and we look forward to seeing him play.

On this weekend’s Test, Foster added: “The Fijian team will bring a very different challenge from Tonga. They are a more established side made up of primarily overseas-based players, who are amongst some of the better players in Europe.

“We can’t wait to play under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium. It should be a fast, physical match and our team are excited by what the weekend will bring.”

Mini bio – Ethan de Groot

Born: 22 July 1998
Position: Prop
Height, weight: 190cm, 122kg

Raised in New Zealand’s deep south, the form of 22-year-old loosehead prop Ethan de Groot has been a highlight of the Highlanders campaigns this year. De Groot developed as a player at Southland Boys’ High School and rose through the Rugby Southland Academy and age group teams before making his provincial debut for Southland in 2018.  He made two appearances off the bench for the Highlanders last year before becoming a feature of the matchday 23 this year, scoring two tries in the ‘Landers win over the Waratahs in Sky Super Rugby Trans Tasman.

The 2021 Steinlager Series

All Blacks 102 Tonga 0, Saturday 3 July, 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

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