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All Blacks named to play France in Rugby World Cup opener

All Blacks named to play France in Rugby World Cup opener + squad update 

All Blacks selectors Ian Foster, Jason Ryan and Joe Schmidt have named the match day 23 that will take the field against France for the opening game of Rugby World Cup 2023.

Captain Sam Cane will lead the side out in front of 80,000 fans at Stade de France in Paris, while a record-breaking audience is expected to tune in to broadcast coverage around the world.

Around half of the All Blacks squad will celebrate their first ever Rugby World Cup appearance while others are returning for their second, third or even fourth appearance. The match will mark an extra special occasion for prop Nepo Laulala and first-five eighths Richie Mo’unga who are both set to earn their 50th Test caps.

Anton Lienert-Brown has been named to play alongside Rieko Ioane in a midfield that has a combined 126 appearances in the Test arena. Fellow midfielder Jordie Barrett was ruled out due to injury, joining Brodie Retallick, Emoni Narawa, Shannon Frizell and Tyrel Lomax on the list of unavailable players.

“It is a privilege to play in the opening game of Rugby World Cup 2023,” said All Blacks head coach Ian Foster. “What makes it extra special is playing the host nation who are a very proud and in-form team.

“World Cups are different. The initial goal is to qualify for the quarterfinals and to do that we must build our game through the pool stage. That starts in game one, where we have an opportunity to compete against one of the clear tournament favourites.”

The teams will set a record for the most meetings between two countries at the Rugby World Cup. Friday’s match will be their eighth meeting, with their first encounter taking place in the final of the inaugural tournament in 1987. Over nine tournaments they have played each other in one pool match (2011), two quarterfinals (2007, 2015), one semifinal (1999), one bronze final (2003) and two finals (1987, 2011).

Squad update:
During the training week in Lyon, winger Emoni Narawa re-injured his back at the end of a field session. Scans revealed a disc issue which has ruled him out for the rest of the tournament. He is set to leave the squad following the opening game in Paris and a decision on his replacement will be made in due course.

All Blacks match day 23 (Test caps in brackets)
1.  Ethan de Groot (17)
2.  Codie Taylor (79)
3.  Nepo Laulala (49)
4.  Samuel Whitelock (146)
5.  Scott Barrett (62)
6.  Dalton Papali’i (26)
7.  Sam Cane (c) (90)
8.  Ardie Savea (75)
9.  Aaron Smith (119)
10. Richie Mo’unga (49)
11. Mark Telea (5)
12. Anton Lienert-Brown (63)
13. Rieko Ioane (63)
14. Will Jordan (25)
15. Beauden Barrett (116)
16. Samisoni Taukei’aho (25)
17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (53)
18. Fletcher Newell (8)
19. Tupou Vaa’i (22)
20. Luke Jacobson (15)
21. Finlay Christie (17)
22. David Havili (25)
23. Leicester Fainga’anuku (3)

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