The All Blacks team has been named to play the Vista Northern Tour Test against Italy at Stadio Olimpico, Rome, on Saturday 24 November (Kick-off: 3.00PM CST, NZT: 3.00AM Sunday 25 November).
The matchday 23 is as follows (with Test caps in brackets):
1.Ofa Tuungafasi (25)
2. Dane Coles (59)
3. Nepo Laulala (16)
4. Patrick Tuipulotu (20)
5. Scott Barrett (28)
6. Vaea Fifita (8)
7. Ardie Savea (34)
8. Kieran Read – captain (117)
9. TJ Perenara (54)
10. Beauden Barrett (72)
11. Waisake Naholo (25)
12. Ngani Laumape (9)
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (32)
14. Jordie Barrett (8)
15. Damian McKenzie (22)
16. Nathan Harris (19)
17. Karl Tu’inukuafe (12)
18. Angus Ta’avao (1)
19. Brodie Retallick (74)
20. Dalton Papalii (1)
21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (2)
22. Richie Mo’unga (8)
23. Rieko Ioane (23)
In the forwards, props Ofa Tuungafasi and Nepo Laulala combine with hooker Dane Coles in the starting front row, with props Karl Tu’inukuafe and Angus Ta’avao, and hooker Nathan Harris to provide front row impact off the bench. Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu are in the second row, with Brodie Retallick on the bench, while in the loose forwards, Vaea Fifita starts at six, Ardie Savea is again in the seven jersey and Captain Kieran Read is at number eight. Dalton Papalii will provide loose forward cover off the bench.
In the backs, halfback TJ Perenara starts, with Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi in the run on reserves, while Beauden Barrett is at 10. The midfield combo of Ngani Laumape and Anton Lienert-Brown will start, with the back three made up of Waisake Naholo on the left wing, Jordie Barrett on the right and Damian McKenzie at fullback. The other run on back reserves are Richie Mo’unga and Rieko Ioane.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “We’ve got an excited group of players who are keen to make the most of their opportunity and represent the jersey, themselves and their country with a strong performance on Saturday.
“The group is aware that this is our last week together and they’re determined to really prepare well, play well and enjoy every moment of the week. After two big Tests, it’s been necessary to make some changes and those guys who have come in have provided a real energy and enthusiasm to our week’s preparation.
Hansen said Italy would bring their own unique challenges.
“The Italians will bring plenty of line speed, with a wide defensive spread, and again allows us to experience playing this type of team. They’re big men who play with a lot of passion and pride. We saw in their match against Australia last week just how difficult they can be to play if you allow them to dictate the terms of the game.
“Our goal will be to create quality set-piece ball and lightning quick ruck ball, coupled with a real accuracy in our decision-making so we can use our skillsets accordingly. We look forward to again playing at Stadio Olimpico in front of the Italian people and delivering a performance we can all be proud of.”
Key facts – All Blacks vs Italy
* The All Blacks and Italy have played each other 14 times since 1979 and three times in Rome. The last meeting between the two sides was in 2016 at Stadio Olimpico, with the All Blacks winning 68-10 that day.
* All Blacks Captain Kieran Read will play his 118th Test on Saturday and become the third equal most capped All Black, alongside Tony Woodcock.
* The All Blacks have scored 483 points so far this year, the sixth highest figure in their history. The All Blacks scored more than 500 points in both 2016 and 2017, the first team to do so in consecutive years.
The Vista 2018 All Blacks Northern Tour
- All Blacks 37 Australia 20. Saturday 27 October, Nissan Stadium, YOKOHAMA
2. Japan 31 All Blacks 69. Saturday 3 November, Ajinomoto Stadium, TOKYO
3. England 15 All Blacks 16. Saturday 10 November, Twickenham, LONDON
4. Ireland 16 All Blacks 9. Saturday 17 November, Aviva Stadium, IRELAND
5. vs. ITALY. Saturday 24 November, Stadio Olimpico, ROME
Kick-off: 3.00PM CST (NZT: 3.00AM Sunday 25 November)