WELLINGTON, New Zealand: Sam Cane will play his first test of the season when New Zealand faces the United States on Saturday, although it won’t be as captain of the All Blacks.
Lock Sam Whitelock will lead New Zealand in its first match in the United States for seven years while Cane will be on the bench as he makes his return from a serious injury.
The team named Thursday by head coach Ian Foster is composed mostly of players who missed or had little playing time in the recent Rugby Championship in Australia. Whitelock chose to sit out New Zealands Championship matches in Australia to be with his wife, who recently gave birth.
He will lead the All Blacks in all of the tests on their northern tour against the United States, Wales, Italy, Ireland and France as Cane focuses on his return. Cane became New Zealands regular captain when Kieran Read retired after the 2019 World Cup but missed the Rugby Championship and previous tests against Australia, Tonga and Fiji because of a torn pectoral muscle.
He will be joined on the bench by lock Josh Lord who has been named to make his debut as a replacement. Lord was called up after Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu returned to New Zealand at the end of the Rugby Championship.
Hooker Dane Coles, who missed the Championship because of a calf muscle injury, is also named on the bench.
Richie Mounga missed most of the Australian leg of the Rugby Championship while awaiting the birth of his second child, and will start at flyhalf on Saturday. He joined the All Blacks in Australia in time to be on the bench for the final match against the Springboks.
Mounga will combine with Scotland-born scrumhalf Finlay Christie, who will start a test for the first time. Braydon Ennor will also start for the first time at center, as will Ethan de Groot at loosehead prop.
Finlay has made the most of his opportunities and he just keeps growing his game and getting better and better and were delighted at how hes going, Foster said. Braydon has had a year disrupted by injury but hes back.
Hes running fast and were again looking forward to seeing how he goes.
Foster has named a strong attacking back three with Damian McKenzie at fullback and Will Jordan and George Bridge on the wings. Ennor will combine in midfield with Quinn Tupaea.
Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papalii and Hoskins Sotutu will form a powerful back row, likely to feature Cane later in the match.
The bench is particularly strong with Cane, Coles, scrumhalf T.J. Perenara, flyhalf Beauden Barrett and center Anton Lienert-Brown.
Saturdays match at FedExField normally the home of the NFL’s Washington Football Team is the fifth official test between New Zealand and the United States, the first since their 2014 meeting in Chicago.
The chance for us to play in a new city and new stadium is pretty special and the group is really excited and looking forward to the occasion, Foster said. Its time to get back into our groove after our break in Australia and with a number of players having not played for a while. Its time to get our game going again and we are ready to go.
New Zealand: Damian McKenzie, Will Jordan, Braydon Ennor, Quinn Tupaea, George Bridge, Richie Mounga, Finlay Christie; Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii, Luke Jacobson, Tupou Vaai, Sam Whitelock (captain), Angus Taavao, Asafo Aumua, Ethan de Groot. Reserves: Dane Coles, George Bower, Tyrel Lomax, Josh Lord, Sam Cane, T.J. Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Anton Lienert-Brown.
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