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
Key All Black announces sabbatical to play in Japan
All Blacks captain Sam Cane will take up a sabbatical option in his New Zealand Rugby (NZR) contract in 2024 to play a season for Suntory in Japan League One.
The 31-year-old, 95-Test loose forward will miss the 2024 DHL Super Rugby Pacific season with the Chiefs, but will return to New Zealand in June to be available for selection to the All Blacks for the 2024 Steinlager Series and Rugby Championship campaign.
Cane, who is contracted to NZR through to the end of 2025, said he was looking forward to experiencing a new playing environment with Suntory and learning more about a new culture in Japan.
“When the opportunity to play for Suntory in 2024 came up it felt like the right time following the Rugby World Cup to try something new and also a great chance to continue to grow and learn in my rugby and life journey. I’m grateful to New Zealand Rugby for their support to take this opportunity.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to skip a season with the Chiefs, but I know the team is in a great place and has an incredible group of leaders in the squad and the coaching group to have a successful 2024, and I’m really pleased to be able to return in time to put my best foot forward for selection in the All Blacks.”
NZR CEO Mark Robinson said:
“Sam’s decision to take a sabbatical in 2024 has our full support and we wish him and his family all the best for their time in Japan. There are very few players who have given as much as he has to the jerseys he’s worn in his career to date and it’s a mark of his commitment to the All Blacks that he will return and make himself available for the Test season.”
Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan said:
“Sam has given everything to this team on and off the field and deserves to take this opportunity to experience something different. He is an exceptional player and influential leader who has been an integral part of the Gallagher Chiefs for many years. We wish him and his family all the best and hope they enjoy their time in Japan after a full-on year.”
Key All Black commits to Gallagher Chiefs until 2025
Dominant loose forward Luke Jacobson has extended his contract with the Gallagher Chiefs, Waikato and New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2025.
The 18-test All Black was a consistent starter for the Gallagher Chiefs this year and a key element of their outstanding DHL Super Rugby Pacific performances. He consequently went on to be named in the All Blacks squad to travel to France.
Gallagher Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan is delighted to have Jacobson sticking around for another two seasons.
“Luke is an outstanding player; he’s a workhorse, a consistent performer and considered a real warrior within our group. Luke leads by example both on and off the field. He isnt one to waste words and prefers to let his actions speak for themself. In the absence of some senior players who have moved on, I have no doubt Luke will play an integral part providing the leadership and guidance our younger players will be looking for”.
Jacobson has impressed throughout his career, playing for the New Zealand U20s team twice and captaining them in his second season to win the 2017 U20 World Championship title. This aptitude for leadership has seen him pull on the Gallagher Chiefs captain’s armband on multiple occasions.
Waikato Rugby head coach Ross Filipo is excited about Luke extending his career with Waikato. “He is a great man and a great leader who continues to make huge contributions on and off the field and always represents the region with pride.”
Speaking on his signing Jacobson said: “I’m stoked to signing on with the Waikato, Chiefs and NZR for another two years. I love representing these teams and am very proud to be able to call myself a Waikato/Chiefs man and also and All black. I’m hungry to succeed with these teams and tick off a few unticked boxes.”
The 2024 Gallagher Chiefs squad will be named later this year ahead of assembling for pre-season training.
QUARTERFINAL PREVIEW: All Blacks v Ireland (Rugby World Cup 2023)
Get ready for what is arguably the most anticipated quarterfinal in Rugby World Cup history as number one-ranked Ireland squares off with three-time champions, the All Blacks, for a spot in the semifinals.
MATCH DETAILS: All Blacks v Ireland, Saturday 14 October, 9pm CET, Stade de France, Paris (Sunday 15 October, 8am NZT)
Won: All Blacks 30, Ireland 5, drawn 1
Last time: All Blacks 22, Ireland 32 (16 July 2022, Sky Stadium, Wellington)
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Ireland qualified for the quarterfinals as the winners of Pool B with victories over Romania (82-8), Tonga (59-16), South Africa (13-8) and Scotland (36-14). They have now won 17 Test matches in a row. The most consecutive victories for a tier one nation stands at 18 by New Zealand (2015-2016) and England (2015-2017). The All Blacks qualified for the quarterfinals by coming second in Pool A. The team rebounded from an opening round 13-27 loss to France to beat Namibia (71-3), Italy (96-17) and Uruguay (73-0) to sew up a spot in the quarterfinals.
All BLACKS SQUAD UPDATE
With a combined 1366 Test caps worth of experience, the match day 23 will be led out by captain Sam Cane in front of 80,000 fans at Stade de France. Cane is joined by Ardie Savea and Shannon Frizell in the starting loose forward trio. It will mark the first time they have run out together since the team’s 35-20 win over South Africa in Auckland. Meanwhile, loosehead prop Ethan de Groot has returned from suspension to join Codie Taylor and Tyrel Lomax in the front row. Their last start together was in the team’s 38-7 win over Australia in Melbourne. After an impressive hat-trick against Namibia, Leicester Fainga’anuku has been selected on the left wing and will feature alongside Beauden Barrett and Will Jordan in the back three.
UNCHANGED IRISH STARTING FIFTEEN
Ireland coach Andy Farrell has named an unchanged starting XV for the first time at RWC 2023. The only two changes to the match-day team from last week’s victory against Scotland are on the bench, with Joe McCarthy replacing fellow second row James Ryan (injured) and Jimmy O’Brien replacing Stuart McCloskey. Johnny Sexton will play his 15th Test against the All Blacks for Ireland, and 18th overall including the British and Irish Lions. He will surpass Alun Wyn Jones (17) for most Tests by any Northern Hemisphere player against New Zealand.
Irish pivot Johnny Sexton said the side had worked on its mental game since losing to the All Blacks in the 2019 quarterfinal and had put themselves in different scenarios to prepare for knockout rugby. “Each quarterfinal or where we haven’t got through our pool, have all been different, and it’s a different group again. Each of those groups lost once,” Sexton said. “It wasn’t the same group losing quarterfinals year and year. If it was club rugby it might be different, but I don’t think we are carrying much baggage. It is a one-off game and we have got to prepare for now.”
All Blacks captain Sam Cane said the side is treating the clash against Ireland as a final. “We take confidence from the hard work that has gone into the preparation. We are going in with confidence, and it will be about executing what we have done on the training pitch out there, under massive pressure, in front of a full crowd,” Cane said. “If we are able to do that, and do it consistently, we will give ourselves a really good shot at winning.”
New Zealand have scored the most tries of any of the eight quarterfinalists with 38 tries at an average of 9.5 per game. Ireland and France are second equal with 27 tries at an average of 6.8 tries per match.
Tune into NZR+ for the pre-match live show with Jim Hamilton and special guests pitch side at Stade de France. Stream the pre-match live show for free HERE.
All Blacks (caps in brackets):
1. Ethan de Groot (19) 2. Codie Taylor (82) 3. Tyrel Lomax (29) 4. Brodie Retallick (106) 5. Scott Barrett (66) 6. Shannon Frizell (30) 7. Sam Cane (c) (92) 8. Ardie Savea (78) 9. Aaron Smith (122)
10. Richie Mo’unga (53) 11. Leicester Fainga’anuku (6) 12. Jordie Barrett (54) 13. Rieko Ioane (66) 14. Will Jordan (28) 15. Beauden Barrett (120)
Reserves: 16. Dane Coles (89) 17. Tamaiti Williams (5) 18. Fletcher Newell (11) 19. Samuel Whitelock (150) 20. Dalton Papali’i (29) 21. Finlay Christie (19) 22. Damian McKenzie (45) 23. Anton Lienert-Brown (67)
1 Andrew Porter 2 Dan Sheehan 3 Tadhg Furlong 4 Tadhg Beirne 5 Iain Henderson 6 Peter O’Mahony 7 Josh van der Flier 8 Caelan Doris 9 Jamison Gibson-Park 10 Johnny Sexton (c) 11 James Lowe 12 Bundee Aki 13 Garry Ringrose 14 Mack Hansen 15 Hugo Keenan
Reserves: 16 Ronan Kelleher 17 Dave Kilcoyne 18 Finlay Bealham 19 Joe McCarthy 20 Jack Conan 21 Conor Murray 22 Jack Crowley 23 Jimmy O’Brien