New Zealand
Naholo named for All Blacks debut
July 15, 2015
Waisake Naholo was one of the standout wingers in Super Rugby © Getty Images

Highlanders speedster Waisake Naholo will be the new boy in a highly experienced All Blacks side to face Argentina in the opening match of the Rugby Championship.

Fiji-born Naholo - whose pace, power and 13 tries were features of the southerners' run to the Super Rugby title - will be on the right wing in Christchurch on Friday night. His inclusion for George Moala is one of four changes to the starting 15 from the 25-16 win over Samoa.

The 24-year-old was among a host of Hurricanes and Highlanders unavailable for the historic Test in the Pacific Island nation last Wednesday because of their involvement in the Super Rugby final. However, only he and Hurricanes Ma'a Nonu, TJ Perenara and Jeremy Thrush have made it into the match-day 23 against Argentina.

Coach Steve Hansen says the All Blacks have plenty of respect for the Pumas and also know they have to improve considerably on their performance against Samoa.

Samoa 16-25 New Zealand (Australia only)

"With that in mind, the selectors didn't want to make too many changes," he said. "It's a fine balancing act between getting game time for those who need it, giving others the rest they may need, and giving ourselves an opportunity to see players and combinations in the heat of the Test battle so we can make good selections going forward."

Nonu has been named at outside-centre in place of Ryan Crotty, while Perenara takes over the No.9 jersey from Andy Ellis. The other change in the run-on side is at lock, where Brodie Retallick comes in for Sam Whitelock.

Even with Naholo, the starting 15 will be the most experienced the All Blacks have put out. The combined 920 caps beats the record of 868 set seven days ago in Apia.

Lock Thrush is on a bench that also includes Crusader Codie Taylor, who replaces Hika Elliot as reserve hooker and is in line to make his Test debut. Liam Messam comes in for Matt Todd to provide loose forward cover. Hansen said that, while there had been plenty of talk about this year's World Cup, it was important for the All Blacks to get away to a good start in a shortened Rugby Championship.

Meanwhile, halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow and prop Joe Moody have again been released to play for the Maori All Blacks, while wing Cory Jane is poised to make his come-back from injury for New Zealand Barbarians. The two sides meet in Auckland on Saturday.

New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Waisake Naholo, Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Charles Piutau, Dan Carter, TJ Perenara; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Jerome Kaino; Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano; Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Replacements: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Nepo Laulala, Jeremy Thrush, Liam Messam, Andy Ellis, Colin Slade, Ryan Crotty.


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