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Quinn Tupaea handed All Blacks start against Tonga

George Bowe, Ethan Blackadder and Finlay Christie are all set to make their debuts from the bench.

Quinn Tupaea, right, will start at inside centre for the All Blacks.
Quinn Tupaea, right, will start at inside centre for the All Blacks.
Image: PA

NEW ZEALAND COACH Ian Foster will blood four new All Blacks in Saturday’s Test in Auckland against Tonga.

Inside centre Quinn Tupaea is included in the starting 15 with prop George Bower, loose forward Ethan Blackadder and Scotland-born scrum-half Finlay Christie to make their debuts from the bench.

The All Blacks are to play Tonga and then two Tests against Fiji over the next three weeks as Foster prepares his squad for the more formidable task of the Rugby Championship later in the year involving world champions South Africa, Australia and Argentina.

The All Blacks are overwhelming favourites against a Tonga side featuring nine debutants in the starting line-up and lacking their top Europe-based players.

But it will be the nature of the performance rather than the scoreline that will be the focus for New Zealand.

Foster, whose first season in charge of the All Blacks saw only three wins from six Tests, is under pressure to produce a side that can command the international respect held by the 1987, 2011 and 2015 World Cup winning teams.

“After Covid disrupted our season last year we felt a little bit distanced from our fans playing most of our games overseas, so what’s in front of us this weekend is very exciting,” Foster said.

Foster has named a strong forward pack with experienced hooker Dane Coles starting in his 75th Test alongside props Karl Tu’inukuafe and Angus Ta’avao.

Captain Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett are the starting locks, with four-Test flanker Daton Papalii filling the seven role vacated by the injured Sam Cane while Akira Ioane and Luke Jacobson round off the loose forwards.

Foster has opted to rest his number one scrum-half Aaron Smith, allowing Brad Weber to start the Test with Richie Mo’unga outside him while Rieko Ioane and Tupaea fill the centres.

George Bridge and Will Jordan are on the wings with Damian McKenzie at fullback and the Barrett brothers Jordie and Beauden on the bench.

Foster said Jordie Barrett, usually seen at fullback or on the wing, would cover the midfield.

“We know where he will play long term but he’s a great utility player to have.”

The last time the All Blacks played Tonga, in 2019, they won 92-7.

© – AFP, 2021

New Zealand (v Tonga)

15. Damian McKenzie
14. Will Jordan
13. Rieko Ioane
12. Quinn Tupaea
11. George Bridge
10. Richie Mo’unga
9. Brad Weber

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1. Karl Tu’inukuafe
2. Dane Coles
3. Angus Ta’avao
4. Scott Barrett
5. Sam Whitelock (capt)
6. Akira Ioane
7. Dalton Papalii
8. Luke Jacobson

Replacements:

16. Asafo Aumua
17. George Bower
18. Tyrel Lomax
19. Patrick Tuipulotu
20. Ethan Blackadder
21. Finlay Christie
22. Beauden Barrett
23. Jordie Barrett

– Updated 9.27: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the All Blacks’ team lineup; this has been corrected.

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