The Crusaders first five Richie Mo’unga will get his first Test start for the All Blacks in Saturday night’s Rugby Championship Test against Argentina in Nelson.
Halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi is set to make his Test debut off the bench, while winger Nehe Milner-Skudder returns to the Test side for the first time since October last year.
Milner-Skudder was injured in the All Blacks Test in Cape Town in last year’s Rugby Championship and returns on the right wing.
As well as Mo’unga and Tahuriorangi, other back changes in the matchday 23 has TJ Perenara named to start at halfback and Ben Smith move back to fullback.
In the forwards, Karl Tu’inukuafe starts at loosehead prop, in for the injured Joe Moody, and Tim Perry comes into the prop reserves.
In the second row, Scott Barrett starts, with Sam Whitelock moving to the bench. Shannon Frizell will make his second Test start at blindside flanker, Ardie Savea is at seven, with Luke Whitelock coming into the loose forward reserves.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “While we’ve made a number of changes from our last outing, this is not a reflection on Argentina but rather a desire by us to grow the experience and depth of our squad. Secondary to that, we also know that if we don’t use the whole squad across a long season, we’ll run out of steam later in the year.
“In making these changes, it also needs to be said that the high expectation we place on ourselves remains the same, regardless of who we’ve selected. The All Blacks jersey demands this.
“We’re very aware of the Argentinian challenge. We know that they’re hungry for Test success against the All Blacks and after their recent win over South Africa, they’ll be coming here confident that they can achieve their desired goal.
“This means that we’ll need to step up with our own response and be better than we were in our recent Test in Auckland. We’ll need to concentrate on setting a strong foundation throughout the 80 minutes, particularly in our set pieces and our strike plays, along with our defence. Throughout the week we’ve concentrated on getting our personal and team processes right and delivering on these will also be key come Saturday.”
Hansen added the team was looking forward to playing the first-ever All Blacks Test in Nelson.
“We’ve had fantastic support from everyone in the community. It’s been quite special and on behalf of the entire All Blacks squad and management, we’d like to thank the people of Nelson for their hospitality and generous support.”
Matchday 23 (Test caps in brackets, * new cap):
1. Karl Tu’inukuafe (5)
2. Codie Taylor (34)
3. Owen Franks (100)
4. Brodie Retallick (70)
5. Scott Barrett (21)
6. Shannon Frizell (1)
7. Ardie Savea (27)
8. Kieran Read – captain (111)
9. TJ Perenara (47)
10. Richie Mo’unga (1)
11. Waisake Naholo (21)
12. Ngani Laumape (7)
13. Jack Goodhue (3)
14. Nehe Milner-Skudder (11)
15. Ben Smith (70)
16. Nathan Harris (15)
17. Tim Perry (1)
18. Ofa Tuungafasi (18)
19. Samuel Whitelock (101)
20. Luke Whitelock (5)
21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi *
22. Damian McKenzie (17)
23. Anton Lienert-Brown (26)