IN HIS FIRST team announcement since taking over from Graham Henry, Stave Hansen has handed out three new caps as the World Cup winners get back to business.
Second row Brodie Retalick, powerful wing, Julian Savea and – with Piri Weepu dropped to the bench – scrum half Aaron Smith are the men to be blooded when Ireland pitch up at Eden Park on Saturday morning.
Aside from those three fresh faces it is an experienced line-up, especially in the front row where Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore and Owen Franks will provide the sternest of tests for Ireland’s bruised coal face workers.
Richie McCaw will enjoy a rare start since leading the All Blacks to glory in October while Dan Carter will don the number 10 shirt for the first time since the group stage win over France.
Behind Carter, Sonny Bill Williams is preferred to Ma’a Nonu at inside centre. Zac Guildford, who was embroiled in some high-profile controversies is given a chance on the wing with Richard Kahui and Corey Jane both out injured.
Hansen told Allblacks.com that he has set his sights on hitting the ground running and training intensity has increased in the lead-up to Saturday’s test.
“We have been concentrating on making sure we have clarity early in the week, increasing intensity and accuracy as the week goes on, which should allow us to put in a performance that we can be proud of on Saturday.”
“It’s shaping up to be another fantastic occasion at Eden Park. And we’re really hoping it’s a sell-out with a blacked-out and vocal crowd. The All Blacks love playing at the ground and the team certainly appreciates the support.”
New Zealand (v Ireland): Woodcock, Hore, O Franks; Retallick, Whitelock; Vito, McCaw (capt), Read: A Smith, Carter; Savea, Williams, C Smith, Guildford; Dagg.
Replacements: Elliot, B Franks, Williams, Thomson, Weepu, Cruden, Smith.