All Blacks Coach Graham Henry and his Assistant Coaches Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith have named their team to play Ireland in the first Steinlager Series Test at Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, on Saturday 12 June, with three players to make their Test debuts and three other new All Blacks on the bench.
1. Ben Franks *- 2. Keven Mealamu (71) -3. Owen Franks (9) -4. Brad Thorn (37) -5. Anthony Boric (13) -6. Jerome Kaino (25) -7. Richie McCaw – captain (80) -8. Kieran Read (16)
9. Jimmy Cowan (33)- 10. Daniel Carter (66)
11. Josevata Rokocoko (60)- 12. Benson Stanley *- 13. Conrad Smith (33) -14. Cory Jane (12) -15. Israel Dagg *
Reserves:16. Aled de Malmanche (2)-17. Neemia Tialata (41)- 18. Sam Whitelock *-19. Victor Vito*
20. Piri Weepu (35)-21. Aaron Cruden *22. Zac Guildford (2)
* Denotes new Test cap
Number of Test caps in brackets
26–year–old Tasman loosehead prop Ben Franks makes his Test debut alongside 22–year–old brother Owen in the front row, after getting his first start for the All Blacks against Munster in 2008; Hawke’s Bay fullback Israel Dagg, who turned 22 on Sunday, gets the ultimate birthday present, named at fullback (All Black number 1101), while 25–year–old Auckland midfielder Benson Stanley (All Black number 1102) has been named at second five–eighth. The three new All Blacks on the reserves bench are 21-year-old Manawatu first five-eighth Aaron Cruden, his Hurricanes team–mate, 23-year-old Wellington loose forward Victor Vito and 21–year–old Canterbury lock Sam Whitelock.
All Blacks Coach Graham Henry said: “It’s an exciting team that will play the Irish – we have picked experienced All Blacks together with those players who have been in form throughout the Rebel Sport Super 14 and deserve their opportunity at Test level. They know the Irish will be a huge challenge but they are looking forward to it.”
Richie McCaw will again captain the All Blacks in his 81st Test and will become the third equal most capped All Black alongside former All Blacks team-mate Justin Marshall and one Test behind current team-mate Mils Muliaina (82).
McCaw said the squad had gelled together well since coming together in Auckland last week and the players had also been buoyed by the support from Taranaki fans since arriving in New Plymouth on Sunday.
“It’s been awesome. From the welcome at the airport through to the thousands of fans who turned up at Yarrow Stadium yesterday (for the All Blacks Open Day), the fans have been fantastic and we are looking forward to their vocal support this weekend.”
Ireland and the All Blacks have played 22 Tests since 1905, with 21 victories to the All Blacks and one match drawn, in 1973. The All Blacks last played Ireland on the 2008 end of year tour beating them 22–3, with the last match played in New Zealand earlier that year in Wellington, with the All Blacks winning 21–11.