Fainga'anuku named in All Blacks squad

Scott Barrett during the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final exit. Photo: Getty Images
Scott Barrett during the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final exit. Photo: Getty Images
The All Blacks selectors have picked two new caps for the first test against Ireland on Saturday, while going back to Scott Barrett in the six jersey for the first time since the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final defeat.

Crusaders standout Leicester Fainga'anuku will debut on the wing at Eden Park while fellow debutant Pita Gus Sowakula is set to play his first test off the bench.

Head coach Ian Foster said the selectors were excited to name the first All Blacks test team for 2022.

"This is doubly exciting for us playing at a packed Eden Park for our first test of the year, leading into a sold out Steinlager series.

"After what seems like a long time away from home, it couldn't be scripted better to be back in front of our fans for this match.

"Whilst this week hasn't exactly gone to plan for us, our overall preparation has gone really well."

Leicester Fainga'anuku. Photo: Getty Images
Leicester Fainga'anuku. Photo: Getty Images
In selecting this team, Foster said they've had to take into account managing players coming from the Super Rugby Pacific series.

"We've prepared rigorously for this match, albeit only having a ten day period together.

"We have huge respect for this Irish team and can't wait to run out onto a packed Eden Park on Saturday to kick off the 2022 Steinlager series."

The team sees George Bower named as loosehead prop, with Ofa Tu'ungafasi on the other side of the scrum.

Scott Barrett wears the No 6 jersey with captain Sam Cane at 7 and Ardie Savea at the back of the scrum. Debutant Fainga'anuku gets his first start in the number 11 jersey with fellow Crusader Sevu Reece on the right wing.

After getting called up as cover due to Covid affecting players, Braydon Ennor comes into the 23, and debutant Sowakula is also named in the 23, to potentially get his first cap as an All Black.

Named to play his 133rd All Blacks test, Sam Whitelock surpasses Keven Mealamu as the second most-capped All Black test player of all time (behind Richie McCaw), in what is his 12th season with the team.

There is an incredibly rich history between the two teams which first met in 1905. Saturday will mark the 34th test between the All Blacks and Ireland but just the fourth played at Eden Park.

Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock are the three current All Blacks who played Ireland when they last visited Eden Park in 2012.

All Blacks side to face Ireland:

1 George Bower (11)
2 Codie Taylor (66)
3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi (44)
4 Brodie Retallick (92)
5 Samuel Whitelock (132)
6 Scott Barrett (48)
7 Sam Cane (77) - captain
8 Ardie Savea (59)
9 Aaron Smith (102)
10 Beauden Barrett (101)
11 Leicester Fainga'anuku* (0)
12 Quinn Tupaea (7)
13 Rieko Ioane (47)
14 Sevu Reece (17)
15 Jordie Barrett (36)

16 Samisoni Taukei'aho (9)
17 Karl Tu'inukuafe (25)
18 Angus Ta'avao (20)
19 Pita Gus Sowakula (0)*
20 Dalton Papalii (12)
21 Finlay Christie (5)
22 Richie Mo'unga (32)
23 Braydon Ennor (4)

* New caps

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