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All Blacks team named for Steinlager Series Test against Tonga

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Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images

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

Quinn Tupaea

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.

George Bower

Born: 28 May 1992
Position: Prop
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.

Ethan Blackadder

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.

Finlay Christie

Born: 19 September 1994
Position: Halfback
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

Source – All Blacks Rugby

International

Saints sign Wallabies star

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Image Credit: Northampton Saints

Northampton Saints are delighted to confirm the signing of Australian international lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto ahead of the 2022/23 season.

The 6’6” second row – who clocks in at 116kgs and can also line up in the back row – has 30 Test caps to his name for the Wallabies, and will arrive at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens following the conclusion of the 2022 Super Rugby campaign.

After representing Sydney’s Western Suburbs rugby league side at age-group level, Salakaia-Loto came through the Colts and Shute Shield teams for Randwick, also getting selected for Australia in the 2015 and 2016 World Rugby Under-20s Championships.

He signed his first professional contract with Queensland Reds in 2015 and has since enjoyed a stellar seven-year Super Rugby career, making 64 appearances in the competition to date.

His form for the Reds was rewarded with a Test debut for Australia against South Africa in 2017; Salakaia-Loto then notched up five appearances at the 2019 Rugby World Cup and has also taken his Rugby Championship tally to 12, but the 25-year-old is now relishing the prospect of proving his ability in the Gallagher Premiership.

“I am incredibly excited to be signing for Northampton Saints, a prestigious Club which is known around the world and boasts a long history of success,” Salakaia-Loto said.

“I’ve heard that Franklin’s Gardens is an amazing place to play rugby, and for a long time now, I have wanted to test myself in the Northern Hemisphere.”

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto

“The Northampton squad is already filled with talent and I’m just looking forward to getting over to England later this year to try to develop my game, and help the team win some trophies.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for me and my family, so I can’t wait to pull on a Black, Green and Gold jersey for the first time.”

Saints’ incoming Director of Rugby, Phil Dowson, added: “First and foremost, Lukhan is a big man and a phenomenal athlete, who in the lineout can both jump and call as well. From a set-piece point of view that’s a massive feather in his cap as he can get in the air in attack and in defence.

“But he’s also got a fantastic skillset with a background in rugby league; he’s fast and has got the ability to move and offload the ball too, so he possesses all the credentials he needs to be a real handful in the Gallagher Premiership.

“He’s still a young man at 25, but is really highly regarded within the Australian environment and comes to Franklin’s Gardens with international experience – so he’s a very exciting signing for us and I’m sure he will add a huge amount to the group.”

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International

Samu extends Brumbies & Wallabies stay

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LachlanLawson/BrumbiesMedia

Wallabies and Brumbies backrower Pete Samu has re-signed with Australian Rugby until the end of 2023.
 
Born in Melbourne, 30-year-old Samu has settled at the Brumbies after a unique Rugby story saw him play in Cornwall in the United Kingdom straight out of school before returning to play for Randwick in Sydney, followed by a stint in New Zealand where he won two Super Rugby Championships with the Crusaders.
 
He was lured home in 2018 to the Brumbies where he again tasted Super Rugby success in 2020.
 
Known for his athleticism, speed and skill, the versatile backrower made his International debut in 2018 against Ireland but narrowly missed selection in the 2019 Rugby World Cup squad.
 
He has since gone on to wear the Wallaby gold 19 times, starting at openside flanker against Wales in the side’s final Test of 2021 and will chase a maiden Rugby World Cup berth in 2023.
 
Wallabies and Brumbies backrower, Pete Samu said: “I’m really happy to have my future sorted out early on in the year so I can focus on playing my best Rugby for the Brumbies in Super Rugby Pacific.”
 
“I’ve loved my time here at the Brumbies since coming over in 2018, it’s a special club and my family and I are really settled here in Canberra.
 
“I feel I’ve got a lot of improvement left in my game and to be able to work alongside world class coaches like Laurie (Fisher) and Dan (McKellar) week in week out will help me achieve that.”
 
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said: “Pete’s a great team man and we’re thrilled he’s extended his commitment to Australian Rugby.”
 
“His athleticism and speed are a point of difference across the backrow and we think his best footy lies ahead of him in the gold jersey.
 
“He’s had an unorthodox journey to get to where he is and you can see how motivated he is to make the most of his opportunities.”
 
Brumbies coach, Dan McKellar said: “It’s great for the Brumbies to have Pete locked in for another season.”
 
“He’s got a point of difference in attack you don’t see from many backrowers and when he’s healthy and on form, he’s a genuine match winner.
 
“He bought into what we’re about here at the Brumbies from very early on and he’s extremely popular, both within our group and among our members and supporters so we’re all thrilled to have him in a Brumbies jersey until the end of 2023.”

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International

Beale return to Australia confirmed

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(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs are delighted to announce Kurtley Beale will return to home soil after committing to Australian Rugby until the end of 2023. 

Currently plying his trade in France’s Top 14, Beale has featured in 95 Tests for the Wallabies and was most recently called into the national set up by Dave Rennie for the side’s Spring Tour in the United Kingdom.

The versatile Beale can cover a range of positions across the backline but has been predominantly seen at fullback during his last two seasons playing for his French club, Racing 92.

A member of the past three Wallabies’ Rugby World Cup squads, Beale’s return puts him squarely in the frame to become just the third Australian to feature at four World Cup tournaments. 

The 33-year-old is currently the second most capped NSW Waratah with 148 Super Rugby games across 11 seasons for the club.

Beale will return to the Wallabies and Australian Rugby following the conclusion of the 2021 French Top 14 season and will be available for the 2022 Wallabies’ International season and the Waratahs’ 2023 Super Rugby Pacific competition. 

Returning Wallabies and NSW Waratahs back, Kurtley Beale said: “I’m really happy to be returning to Australia and would like to thank RA and the Waratahs for allowing me that opportunity.”

“There’s nothing better than representing my state and my country and I’ll be working hard to earn the right to do both when I return to Australia.

“From what I can see the Waratahs and the Wallabies are building really strong cultures and environments and I’ll be looking to contribute as much as I can to ensure that continues.”

Rugby Australia CEO, Andy Marinos said: “We’re really pleased that Kurtley is returning home and committed to Australian Rugby to the end of the 2023 season. “

“His decision is especially significant given the current Rugby player market and speaks to his desire to represent both the Waratahs and the Wallabies again. We remain determined to be successful and play a brand of rugby that delivers results and engages fans. Kurtley has shown this in his career to date and we are excited to see the continued impact he can have as we build towards the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

“Kurtley’s return certainly adds depth and experience to Australian Rugby, in positions that provide an opportunity to showcase his skill and diversity. With a new Super Rugby competition and a packed home Test season against Tier 1 nations, there is a lot to look forward to in the weeks and months ahead from both Kurtley and the teams he plays in.”

NSW Waratahs Head Coach, Darren Coleman said: “It’s going to be great having Kurtley back not only for the team but for the NSW Rugby public.

“He’s an excitement machine and his ability to play multiple positions is a real asset for us.”

“I’ve had a long association with Kurtley dating back to 2006 and he’s a really positive guy to have around. 

“I feel he will be a great mentor for some of our young backs as they progress through their professional career.”

Kurtley Beale
Position: Fullback
Height: 183cm
Weight: 90kg
Born: 6 January 1989
Place of birth: Blacktown, New South Wales
Super Rugby debut: 2007 v Brumbies, Canberra (NSW Waratahs)
Super Rugby caps: 148 (NSW Waratahs); 14 (Melbourne Rebels)
Test debut: 2009 v Wales, Cardiff
Test caps: 95

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