Barrett back at fly-half in All Blacks tream to face Fiji
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Dunedin (New Zealand) (AFP) –
Beauden Barrett returns to his favoured fly-half position and scrum-half Aaron Smith will captain New Zealand for the first time in a much changed All Blacks team named Thursday to face Fiji in the first Test.
Outside centre Rieko Ioane and winger George Bridge are they only players in the starting side for Saturday's match in Dunedin who also began last week's Test against Tonga.
Ethan Blackadder and George Bower, who came off the bench against Tonga, will get their first Test starts against Fiji.
Coach Ian Foster, who is keen to give his entire squad match time in the Tests against the Pacific islanders, is expecting a much tougher workout against Fiji than the All Blacks received in their runaway 102-0 win over Tonga.
"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," Foster said.
"It should be a fast, physical match."
Scrum-half Smith, who did not lace up his boots last week, will be playing his 98th Test and will partner Barrett in the halves for the first time in 19 Tests, with the All Blacks preferring Richie Mo'unga in the 10 jersey and Barrett at fullback since then.
In the starting front row, alongside Bower making his first Test start, are hooker Codie Taylor in his 57th Test an Nepo Laulala playing his 30th Test.
Brodie Retallick and Patrick Tuipulotu, with 118 Tests between them, will lock the scrum while Blackadder is joined in the loose forwards by Shannon Frizell and Hoskins Sotutu.
Outside Smith and Barrett in the halves, David Havili returns to the All Blacks for the first time in four years to partner Ioane in the centres while Bridge, Sevu Reece and Jordie Barrett make up the outside trio.
Prop Ethan de Groot is in line to make his Test debut off the bench.
New Zealand (15-1):
Jordie Barrett; Sevu Reece, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, George Bridge; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith (capt); Hoskins Sotutu, Ethan Blackadder, Shannon Frizell; Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu; Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, George Bower.
Replacements: Dane Coles, Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax, Sam Whitelock, Luke Jacobson, Finlay Christie, Damian McKenzie, Will Jordan.
© 2021 AFP