All Blacks name strongest line-up

All Black captain Kieran Read is tackled against France at the weekend. Photo: Getty Images
All Black captain Kieran Read is tackled against France at the weekend. Photo: Getty Images
If their line-up is anything to go by, the All Blacks will show Scotland no mercy.

Naming this team was delayed in large part to give Kieran Read enough time to prove his fitness after battling a groin strain he picked up in Paris. The skipper did just that, emerging unscathed from training on a clear and cold day in Edinburgh.

Luke Romano trained with a heavily bandaged head in order to protect his inner ear cut but he, too, has been cleared to start alongside Sam Whitelock.

Read's presence ensures the All Blacks will roll out their strongest available side at Murrayfield this weekend.

Other than Dane Coles, who has returned home after rupturing his ACL, the starting team is unchanged from last week in Paris. Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor steps in for Coles, just as he did during the British and Irish Lions series.

Of particular note, Vaea Fifita gets a second successive start after claiming the No 6 jersey against France.

Liam Squire, considered first-choice blindside, made his return from a virus in the mid-week team's win over the French XV in Lyon, playing 53 strong minutes.

After that effort on Wednesday (NZT), Squire has been held back and will start from the bench. Two others, Nathan Harris and Lima Sopoaga, will also back up from the bench after playing significant minutes mid-week. Ofa Tu'ungafasi will also feature in three games in seven days - all off the bench.

While Fifita didn't shine as much with ball in hand in open field against France, his defence was punishing. It's here the All Blacks will be pleased with his development of late. And he is sure to benefit from a repeat start.

Later in this test Fifita may be asked to slot in at lock with no second-row cover in the reserves; Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu both left out.

Sticking with those who led 31-5 after a laying on four classy first half tries, only to fade and hold on for a flattering 20-point win against France, is a break from the rule this year with the All Blacks regularly rotating their team.

Scotland are said to be missing 13 players through injuries, a list which includes influential captain Greig Laidlaw. After scraping past Samoa last weekend hearing news the All Blacks have named their strongest side may fill them with dread.

For large patches the All Blacks second-string team executed exactly what was asked of them in Lyon.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen expects his first-choice men to do likewise.

"This test against Scotland will be an opportunity for this group of players to take on the challenge of raising the bar on performance which was set down by their teammates on Tuesday," Hansen said.

"Scotland will be a formidable opponent who, from all indications, will be looking to play skillful rugby and an up-tempo game. Therefore, we'll need to meet this challenge head on and be prepared to empty the tank and exert our own pressure upon them through both our physicality, our own tempo in the game and executing our skills at the highest level.

"We look forward to playing at Murrayfield. It's one of the iconic grounds in world rugby and there's a lot of history between the two countries. Scotland, as always, has been a great country to tour and visit, and the people are always welcoming and hospitable."

All Blacks team:

Damian McKenzie, Waisake Naholo, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Sam Cane, Vaea Fifita, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Kane Hames

Reserves: Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Liam Squire, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Lima Sopoaga, Anton Lienert-Brown

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