All Blacks team announced to play Samoa10:03:00, Mon 6 Jul 2015 New Zealand Rugby
The All Blacks team for the historic Test against Manu Samoa in Apia on Wednesday July 8 has been named, with George Moala to make his Test debut on the wing. A further three new All Blacks have been named on the reserves bench: prop Nepo Laulala, halfback Brad Weber and midfielder Charlie Ngatai.
The team is: (with caps in brackets. New All Blacks in bold)
1. Tony Woodcock (110)
2. Keven Mealamu (123)
3. Owen Franks (67)
4. Luke Romano (17)
5. Samuel Whitelock (62)
6. Jerome Kaino (56)
7. Richie McCaw - captain (137)
8. Kieran Read (72)
9. Andy Ellis (26)
10. Daniel Carter (102)
11. Charles Piutau (14)
12. Sonny Bill Williams (23)
13. Ryan Crotty (13)
14. George Moala
15. Israel Dagg (46)
16. Hikawera Elliot (3)
17. Wyatt Crockett (36)
18. Nepo Laulala
19. Brodie Retallick (36)
20. Matt Todd (2)
21. Brad Weber
22. Colin Slade (17)
23. Charlie Ngatai
The starting XV features a wealth of experience in the forward pack, with 648 Test caps up front, courtesy of a front row of Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Owen Franks; locks Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano; and the familiar loose forward trio of Jerome Kaino, captain Richie McCaw and Kieran Read.
There are a further 224 Test caps in the starting backline, with halfback Andy Ellis returning to the All Blacks for the first time since 2011; Daniel Carter is at first five-eighth, with Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty in the midfield. Moala is on the right wing, Charles Piutau is on the left and Israel Dagg is at fullback
On the bench, hooker Hikawera Elliot continues his remarkable rugby comeback after last playing for the All Blacks in 2012 and undergoing neck surgery in 2013. Wyatt Crockett joins Laulala as prop cover while Brodie Retallick will provide lock cover. Another returning All Black, Matt Todd, is loose forward reserve. In the backs, Colin Slade joins Weber and Ngatai as backs reserves.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said the team was excited by the numerous challenges that the Test against Samoa will pose.
"It's exciting for the group to be playing this first ever All Blacks Test in Samoa and we know it's going to be a special occasion. The Samoans will be incredibly physical and keen to put in a huge performance in front of their fans and we will have to play with high intensity and accuracy with plenty of physicality. We have had a good build-up this week and, with it being a new season and our first Test of the year, we have tried to keep things as simple as possible and now looking forward to getting our season underway."
Meanwhile, All Blacks halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow and prop Joe Moody have been released to play for the Maori All Blacks, who will take on Fiji in Suva on Saturday 11 July. The remaining All Blacks squad members, except loose forward Sam Cane, who shouldered a heavy Super Rugby workload, will travel to Samoa.
The All Blacks and Samoa have played each other five times since 1993 and this is the first Test to be played in Apia. The last Test was on 3 September 2008 in New Plymouth. Current All Blacks who played in that match include Tony Woodcock, Jerome Kaino and Daniel Carter.
Fan frenzy for All Blacks supporters in Samoa
Rugby fans in Samoa will get to see their fair share of All Blacks with the team undertaking a number of fan events in Apia ahead of the All Blacks Test against Manu Samoa.
The team flies into Apia on Monday night and has a full day of events planned, including a public parade and presentation, an official meeting with Samoa's Head of State, a rugby skills session with local rugby kids and a schoolkids event with their official international partner UNICEF.
The fan activities kick off on Tuesday morning when a group of All Blacks players and management, including captain Richie McCaw, together with New Zealand Rugby President David Rhodes, Chairman Brent Impey and CEO Steve Tew visit Samoa's Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi.
Later that morning ten players will take part in a skills and drills session with 100 children at Marist Brothers School, for an event that promises to be a lot of fun for the rugby-mad youngsters.
At 12.00PM on Tuesday, Apia is expected to come to a standstill when both the All Blacks and Manu Samoa squads take part in a public parade. The teams will travel a short route through Apia in traditional open Samoan buses finishing at the Government Building in the centre of the capital for a presentation.
The fan activities wrap up ahead of the Test on Wednesday when a group of players visit some local schoolchildren for a UNICEF promotion on "Healthy Eating, Healthy Activity"
All Blacks Manager Darren Shand said: "The team is really looking forward to meeting their fans in Samoa ahead of this historic Test. We know it's going to be a fantastic few days for the whole of the country and we look forward to seeing as many people as we can."
For information on media opportunities around the above events, please contact Joe Locke on the details below.