Two new faces in the All Black run-on team for Test in Tokyo.
All Blacks selectors Ian Foster, Joe Schmidt and Jason Ryan have announced the team for the Lipovitan-D Challenge Cup Test against Japan in Tokyo.
Two players will make their first appearance in the run-on side while another five are set to return from injury, on what will be an historic occasion for both teams.
The All Blacks make their debut at Japan National Stadium which recently hosted the Olympic Games. With a sell-out crowd of 65,000, it will be Japan’s largest ever crowd in an international rugby match played outside the 2019 World Cup.
Adding to the occasion is a special milestone for two players. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Stephen Perofeta [pictured below] have been included in the run-on side for the first time, playing at second-five eighths and fullback respectively. Tuivasa-Sheck has been named in the midfield alongside Braydon Ennor.
Halfback Finlay Christie has been named to play his second Test in the number nine jersey, while Aaron Smith provides cover. If required to take the field, Smith will equal Dan Carter as the sixth-most capped All Black with 112 Tests.
The side also features the return of Anton Lienert-Brown. The 56-Test midfielder missed the start of the international season due to a shoulder injury and, after being named as midfield cover, is in line to earn his first cap since November.
Six players have been retained from the team’s win over Australia in Auckland, which clinched the Rugby Championship. Finding a balance of continuity, while building experience across the squad, has been part of this week’s focus for head coach Ian Foster.
“This Northern Tour is going to be huge,” said Foster. “We see four incredibly tough Tests ahead and this one against Japan will ask some serious questions of us.
“We want to show that we are ready to respond. We want to show that we have put in the work required to lift our game even further after the Rugby Championship.
“We have a lot of respect for Japanese rugby, the fans and the culture of this country as a whole. What an exciting way to kick off the next part of our journey as a group.”
Match day 23 (Test caps in brackets):
1. George Bower (19)