The All Blacks team has been named to play Tonga in the historic opening match of the Steinlager Series at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, on Saturday 3 July (kick-off 7.05PM), with four uncapped All Blacks named in the matchday 23.
The team is (Test caps in brackets. New Test caps in bold):
1: Karl Tu’inukuafe (17)
2: Dane Coles (74)
3: Angus Ta’avao (14)
4: Scott Barrett (36)
5: Samuel Whitelock (122) – captain
6: Akira Ioane (2)
7: Dalton Papalii (4)
8: Luke Jacobson (2)
9: Brad Weber (7)
10: Richie Mo’unga (22)
11: George Bridge (10)
12: Quinn Tupaea (new cap)
13: Rieko Ioane (33)
14: Will Jordan (2)
15: Damian McKenzie (27)
16: Asafo Aumua (1)
17: George Bower (new cap)
18: Tyrel Lomax (6)
19: Patrick Tuipulotu (35)
20: Ethan Blackadder (new cap)
21: Finlay Christie (new cap)
22: Beauden Barrett (88)
23: Jordie Barrett (23)
Four uncapped All Blacks have been named in the side: Quinn Tupaea will start at second five-eighth, with prop George Bower, loose forward Ethan Blackadder and halfback Finlay Christie set to make their Test debuts from the bench.
The experienced hooker Dane Coles will start in his 75th Test alongside props Karl Tu’inukuafe and the returning Angus Ta’avao. Hooker Asafo Aumua will provide impact off the bench in his second Test, with Tyrel Lomax the other reserve prop alongside Bower.
Scott Barrett and Captain Samuel Whitelock are starting locks, with Patrick Tuipulotu coming off the bench. In the loose forwards, Akira Ioane is at six and Dalton Papalii is in the number seven jersey, and it’s a welcome return to the All Blacks for Luke Jacobson, who will start at number eight.
In the backs, Brad Weber will make his first Test start in his eighth Test, inside Richie Mo’unga at ten, while Rieko Ioane will provide experienced support at centre outside Tupaea. George Bridge returns to the All Blacks side on the left wing with Will Jordan on the right and Damian McKenzie at fullback. The other back reserves alongside Christie are Jordie and Beauden Barrett.
All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster said the chance to play a first Test at home was “pretty special” especially for the newer players selected.
“It’s fantastic that Quinn, George, Ethan and Finlay have an opportunity and we’re excited for them, especially playing in front of a home crowd.
Commenting on the make-up of the loose forward trio, Foster added: “Dalton gets a reward for a great campaign this year. In Akira’s case, he started at six last year and it’s a chance for him to put a marker down. Luke played very well for the Chiefs and he is back in great form.”
Foster also said Jordie Barrett would cover the midfield from the bench. “He is excited by that. We know where he will play long term but he’s a great utility player to have.”
After a truncated season last year, Foster said the team was energised by what lay ahead, especially playing a first-ever All Blacks Test at Mt Smart Stadium.
“Our whole group is excited. 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.”
New All Blacks – mini bios
Born: 10 May 1999
Position: Midfield back
Height, weight: 186cm, 97kg
Quinn Tupaea announced his arrival on the provincial scene for Waikato in 2018 after starring at Hamilton Boys’ High School and as New Zealand Schools captain. A powerful runner and skilful with ball in hand, he started in 11 of his 12 appearances that season and was named Waikato Emerging Player of the Year. He took his outstanding form in his debut season with the Chiefs in 2020 and was named Chiefs Rookie of the Year. The club has signed him through to 2023. Tupaea also played for the Māori All Blacks against Moana Pasifika last year.
Born: 28 May 1992
Height, weight: 183cm, 115kg
Born in Lower Hutt, prop George Bower can cover both tighthead and loosehead and began his rugby playing for the Avalon club and worked his way through the ranks, playing for the Wellington Under 20 team in 2011 before moving to Dunedin to train as a teacher. He played for Otago B and one game for the top team in 2014 as an injury replacement but it wasn’t until 2018 that he managed to get more regular games. Things moved quickly for the hard-working prop and he was then signed by the Crusaders, helping the team to two Super titles. He was first called into the All Blacks as injury cover in 2020.
Born: 22 March 1995
Position: Loose forward
Height, weight: 190cm, 111kg
The son of former All Blacks captain Todd Blackadder, Ethan hails from North Canterbury originally but attended Nelson College. Blackadder was called into the Tasman provincial team in 2016 after a stellar club season. He became a regular starter for Tasman in 2017 as they made their way to the Premiership Final and in 2019, Blackadder helped the side secure its first provincial title. With the ability to play both lock and in the loose forwards, the versatile player made his Crusaders debut in 2018 and has 20 appearances for the Super side.
Born: 19 September 1994
Height, weight: 177cm, 82kg
Born in Scotland, Christie moved to New Zealand aged seven and attended St Kentigern’s College in Auckland before heading to Canterbury to study. He made his provincial debut for Tasman in 2016 and his eye-catching form saw him offered a Chiefs contract in 2017. He played one season for the Chiefs before becoming a key player in Tasman’s run to the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership Final in 2017. He played for the Hurricanes in 2018-2019 and then moved home to the Blues for the 2020 season. Christie is also a former New Zealand gymnastics representative.
The 2021 Steinlager Series
Tickets to the All Blacks Test are available from www.allblacks.com/tickets
All Blacks vs Tonga, 7.05PM, Saturday 3 July, plus Māori All Blacks vs Manu Samoa (kick-off 4.30PM), Mt Smart Stadium, AUCKLAND
All Blacks vs Fiji, 7.05PM, Saturday 10 July, Forsyth Barr Stadium, DUNEDIN
All Blacks vs Fiji, 7.05PM, Saturday 17 July, plus Tonga vs Samoa (kick-off 4.00PM) FMG Stadium Waikato, HAMILTON
SA Rugby assumes administrative control of Western Province RFU
SA Rugby has advised the Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) that it was invoking its constitutional power to take administrative control of the Union.
The advice was provided following a decision by the Executive Council (Exco) of the South African Rugby Union on Monday.
Experienced former SA Rugby CEO, Rian Oberholzer, has been appointed as an administrator and will assume oversight of the union’s affairs immediately. His remit includes supervision of the operational affairs of Western Province (Pty) Ltd, which manages the professional playing teams of the DHL Stormers and Western Province.
The president of Western Province, Mr Zelt Marais, was informed of the decision this morning (Tuesday).
SA Rugby president, Mr Mark Alexander, said the decision had been taken with extreme reluctance.
“We had engaged with the WPRFU over a number of months on the challenges the organisation faced and tried to assist them in finding solutions,” said Mr Alexander.
“We attempted to partner in a joint oversight committee but were frustrated in our attempts to receive accurate information and engage constructively.
“However, the Union has regressed in its attempts to extricate itself from those challenges and we could no longer stand by.
“This is very much the last resort, but it had become apparent that the Union’s leadership was incapable of putting in place the actions to regularize its position.
“Several of the Union’s stakeholders have contacted our offices to express their dismay and we are aware of the public alarm.
“Clause 29 of the constitution of the South African Rugby Union charges that all unions have to ‘conduct their business affairs in such a way that, at all times, they are in a sound financial position, comply with the laws of the Republic and adhere to the requirements of good governance’.
“It is Exco’s view that WPRFU has failed that test and we could no longer distribute SA Rugby income in that knowledge. On that basis we have taken this decision with a heavy heart.”
The powers of clause 29 allow for the “assumption of responsibility for the affairs of unions…[including] the suspension from office of their elected and/or appointed officials, and the appointment by SARU of administrators, who shall assume all decision-making powers of the unions at both governance and operational levels, and who shall have the authority to direct employees, including chief executive officers, on a day to day basis, such administrators to report and be accountable to and to take direction from the executive council.”
Mr Alexander said that all stakeholders – the union’s commercial partners, broadcaster, coaching staff, players’ union and Vodacom United Rugby Championship partners – had been advised of the decision.
He assured supporters that the appointment of an administrator was to stabilise the Union’s governance and operational business and was not to have any direct influence on DHL Stormers affairs.
“Clause 29 gives us the authority to remain in administration until the Union’s affairs are stabilised,” said Mr Alexander.
“It is not possible right now to put a timeline to that – although it is our intention and desire to make this process as short-lived as possible.
“The most important thing right now is to quietly go about the off-field business so that coach John Dobson and the DHL Stormers squad can focus on performing to their best in their debut season in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.”
Big names bolster All Blacks for northern tour
All Blacks captain Ardie Savea will continue to lead the side as they prepare for their northern hemisphere tour on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Coach Ian Foster said with Sam Cane, Sam Whitelock, Dane Coles and Shannon Frizell meeting up with the All Blacks in Washington their readiness to play would be assessed before any captaincy change was considered.
“At the moment, we’re going to stay with the status quo,” Foster said. “…so, Ardie will carry on leading this team in the short-term future but then once we get to Washington and Wales, we’ll make some assessments about where the other guys are, then we’ll let people know.”
Cane would be left to come back into the environment for two or three weeks to get his confidence up. The 29-year-old loose forward has not played since the end of March, when he suffered a pectoral injury against the Blues in Super Rugby Aotearoa,
The All Blacks are to play: the United States on October 24 in Washington, Wales in Cardiff on October 31, Italy in Rome on November 6, Ireland in Dublin on November 14 and France in Paris on November 20.
With locks Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu returning home, after securing places in the MIQ lottery, the way was open for Taranaki bolter Josh Lord to join Brodie Retallick, Tupou Vaa’i and Sam Whitelock as the locks for the trip.
Foster said Lord was a young player with a lot of promise who had impressed the selectors when doing their rounds of the Super Rugby sides.
“He’s very athletic and we saw this as an opportunity to grow a young player for the future. He’s got the physical attributes that we think are right, and it’s a chance to get him on this tour and start working with him,” he said.
It wasn’t a new ploy by the All Blacks as Jerome Kaino, Isaia Toeava and, Asafo Aumua were examples of what former coach Sir Graham Henry described as ‘special projects’ on past tours.
There was a temptation to include another lock but, with Frizell, they felt they had sufficient cover.
Vaa’i would have an increased role with the side, and Foster was confident of his ability to handle that.
“We love what he did with us last year. We saw Tupou come in quickly last year, and he dealt with a starting role in a Bledisloe Cup game under a lot of pressure. Whenever we put him on the park, we felt he performed well, and he’s continued to do that and impress us.
“We see this tour as a chance for him to get some significant game time and have a big role,” he said.
Whitelock and hooker Coles will play Bunnings NPC games this weekend, and with Bay of Plenty on a bye, efforts are being made for Cane to play a Heartland game.
While the NPC continuing into November would be ideal should injuries be an issue for the All Blacks, Foster said it wasn’t a concern because previous northern tours occurred when the NPC had finished.
Having the competition continue meant it would be easier to get players into Europe and that would be a useful backup should they get an injury.
“The fact that some NPC is going is still a positive for us,” he said.
They were resigned to halfback Aaron Smith not joining them, but such was the situation that it was a case of ‘never saying never’, he said.
Doubt cast on South Africa’s northern tour
South Africa is threatening not to undertake its northern hemisphere tour next month if required to go through a strict bio-bubble environment.
The Springboks have been in bubbles since June, ahead of their hosting of the British & Irish Lions tour.
After their 31-29 win over the All Blacks that ended the Rugby Championship on the Gold Coast on Saturday, South Africa’s players headed home before heading to France for a camp ahead of their northern tour.
They are to play Wales on November 6, Scotland on November 13 and England on November 20.
South Africa is on Britain’s ‘red list’ of countries, although it hopes to be removed from the list soon.
South Africa sits 17th in the world for Covid-19 cases with 2.91million cases and 87,753 deaths. Britain has had 7.87million cases, the fourth highest in the world, and 137,000 deaths.
South Africa Rugby’s president Mark Alexander hopes a solution can be found with the British government.
“Another strict bio-bubble is out of the question, it will break the players,” he told South African newspaper Die Burger.
The players could not endure another set of restrictions, he said. They had already had extended periods confined to their hotels, a high number of Covid tests and limited movement.
No8 Duane Vermeulen said after Saturday’s win, people didn’t understand what the players had to go through to play.
“It’s difficult. People say it is your job and whatever, and we don’t listen to the public’s opinion, but, it’s not as easy as people think,” he said.
“Our first two weeks [in Australia], we were in hard lockdown, we couldn’t do anything. We had no support in the hotel. You had to do all the things on your own, make your bed, clean your room, and it’s a whole different set-up.
“And then, once you are out of quarantine, it’s a whole different thing as well. You have got to keep on adjusting to what is thrown at us, and sometimes it is difficult. But, at the end, we got it all together and walk away with a win at the end of the tour.
“It’s good vibes and good energy now and, hopefully, we can take that positive energy going into the end-of-year tour.
“We only have two weeks off back home, and then we go on another five or six-week tour.
“It’s difficult, it’s a whole different set-up and with Covid, it makes it more difficult, but the team is in a good mental state at the moment and, hopefully, we can take that going into the end of the year,” he said.
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