Ben Smith to captain All Blacks against Samoa in one-off Test
Fullback Ben Smith will become the 68th player to captain the All Blacks while Vaea Fifita and Jordie Barrett are set to make their test debuts in tomorrow night's match against Manu Samoa at Eden Park.
Smith takes over as skipper in his 61st test as regular leader Kieran Read continues to recover from a broken thumb.
It was a straight-forward decision for coach Steve Hansen.
"He's been our vice-captain for a few years now and captain of the Highlanders, where he's been doing a fantastic job, so he was the logical choice," Hansen said.
"He leads by example and is an inspirational to his teammates."
Versatile forward Fifita will come off the bench after briefly being part of the end-of-year tour squad last year, while Hurricanes teammate Jordie Barrett's also in line to make his first All Blacks appearance from the reserves.
"It's also going to be a big night for Jordie and Vaea as they're both likely to play a part on the night," Hansen said.
"They've both been in great form and we're looking forward to seeing what they can do at this level."
It's a close to full-strength line-up, with Jerome Kaino making his return from his knee operation six weeks ago, while Ardie Savea gets a chance to start at number eight for the first time in a Test match, filling in for Read.
Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith has got the nod ahead in the highly-contested number nine jersey with incumbent TJ Perenara in the reserves.
Sonny Bill Williams will play his first match for the All Blacks since the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final, starting at second-five alongside incumbent centre Anton Lienert-Brown.
Crusaders outside back Israel Dagg gets his chance to stake a claim for the number 14 jersey following Waisake Naholo's compelling performance on the right-wing for the Highlanders against the British and Irish Lions on Tuesday night.
Codie Taylor is the first-choice hooker in the absence of Dane Coles, backed up on the bench by Chiefs rake Nathan Harris who returns to the All Blacks after being injured last August.
It will be a special night for the Barrett family as first-five Beauden plays his 50th Test with Scott and Jordie both on the bench in what will be the first time a trio of brothers have played in the same game for the All Blacks.
All Blacks team to play Manu Samoa:
1.Joe Moody, 2.Codie Taylor, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Brodie Retallick, 5.Sam Whitelock, 6.Jerome Kaino, 7.Sam Cane, 8.Ardie Savea, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Beauden Barrett, 11.Julian Savea, 12.Sonny Bill Williams, 13.Anton Lienart-Brown, 14.Israel Dagg, 15.Ben Smith
Reserves: 16.Nathan Harris, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Charlie Faumuina, 19.Scott Barrett, 20.Vaea Fifita, 21.TJ Perenara, 22.Lima Sopoaga,23. Jordie Barrett.
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