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Andy Ellis to partner Dan Carter when All Blacks begin World Cup season in Samoa

Steve Hansen has pulled no punches in the pack, but the scrum-half is back for his first cap since the World Cup final.
Jul 5th 2015, 9:07 PM 7,464 1

BLUES WINGER GEORGE Moala will make his Test debut and veteran scrum-half Andy Ellis earns a recall after a four-year absence in the All Blacks team for Wednesday’s historic Test against Samoa.

Australia Reds Crusaders Rugby Ellis celebrates with Carter during the 2011 Super Rugby final. Source: Tertius Pickard

Moala and Ellis, whose last Test was the 2011 World Cup final, are among nine players who were added to a 41-man pre-World Cup squad to compensate for injuries and the unavailability of 17 players involved in Saturday’s Super 15 final between Highlanders and the Hurricanes.

Three other late additions — Nepo Laulala, Brad Weber and Charlie Ngatai — are set to make their debuts off the bench in the team named before the All Blacks departed for Apia today.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has said he wants to field as many players as possible either against Samoa or in the Rugby Championship Tests against South Africa, Australia and Argentina before his World Cup squad is named at the end of August.

He described Samoa as an “ideal challenge” to start their build up and has taken no chances with his forwards selection naming an eight with a combined 634 caps.

It is the same Richie McCaw-led pack that started the World Cup final four years ago with the exception of the now retired Brad Thorn whose place is taken by Luke Romano who already has 17 Tests under his belt.

Rugby Union - QBE International - England v New Zealand - Twickenham Source: EMPICS Sport

However, the backline has more of an experimental look given the absence of several seasoned players from the Wellington Hurricanes and Otago Highlanders. Israel Dagg has won the fullback slot despite missing most of the Super rugby season because of injury.

Outside scrum-half Ellis is Test centurion Dan Carter to guide a backline with Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty in the centres and Charles Piutau on the left wing and Moala on the right.

“It’s really important we establish this is a big Test. If we rock up there thinking it’s about sunscreen and a holiday we will get thumped,” Hansen said, adding it would ideally take the All Blacks out of their comfort zone ahead of the World Cup.

“It presents us with things that we haven’t had in front of us before, which I find great. I love those challenges because you find out about people in different circumstances. How well do they cope? How well don’t they?

“When we have to name this (World Cup) team we want the people on the bus with the best mental fortitude in the group because it’s going to take a lot of mental fortitude to win the world Cup.”

Wednesday’s Test will be the first time the All Blacks have played in the Pacific Islands and the fixture comes after intense media pressure in New Zealand for the World champions to do more for Pacific island rugby.

The All Blacks have won all five Tests played against Samoa in New Zealand, with the closest result being 35-13 in the inaugural match in 1993 and the biggest margin being the 101-14 scoreline in the most recent Test in 2008.

New Zealand: Israel Dagg, George Moala, Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty, Charles Piutau, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis: Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks; Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (Capt.) Kieran Read.

Replacements: Hikawera Elliot, Wyatt Crockett, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Matt Todd, Brad Weber, Colin Slade, Charlie Ngatai.

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