Foster nails down team, but who is in it?

Sam Whitelock talks to a group at All Blacks training this week. Photo: Getty Images
Sam Whitelock talks to a group at All Blacks training this week. Photo: Getty Images
All Blacks coach Ian Foster has already picked his starting XV for Sunday's first Bledisloe Cup test, so who will be at first-five, in the loosies and the back three?

Foster nailed down the matchday 23 for Sunday afternoon's test against the Wallabies on Tuesday morning, three days before the team is due to be named.

While major surprises are unlikely, the biggest talking points could be whether the Blues number eight Hoskins Sotutu will get a debut, will Jordie Barrett get the nod at fullback and whether Richie Mo'unga or Beauden Barrett will start at first-five.

Will Foster opt for the dual playmaker role, with Mo'unga at 10 and Beauden Barrett at fullback? Where will captain Sam Cane and star loose forward Ardie Savea play?

Will Savea be at No8 with Cane at openside and Shannon Frizell at blindside? Or will Cane and Savea play left and right of the scrum, with Frizell or Sotutu at No8?

Is Jordie Barrett the county's best fullback? Where does Damian McKenzie fit in? Will incumbents George Bridge and Sevu Reece get the nod on the wings? Or will young stars Will Jordan and Caleb Clarke get their chance to shine?

Foster wouldn't reveal his selections early but he says the aim is to get the whole squad up to speed.

"I know who's playing 10 yep. We probably spend less time focusing on the starting XV than what people think. You focus on the squad and getting that squad of 35 on the same page so that everyone is really clear on their roles and when or if they do come it, it's seamless."

Foster says Sunday's Bledisloe Cup opener will be a "huge" test for himself and his Wallabies counterpart, New Zealander and former Chiefs coach Dave Rennie.

With Super Rugby cancelled by Covid-19 and Australia and New Zealand hosting domestic competitions, the All Blacks didn't get to play against their Wallabies counterparts and neither side has played a test for almost a year.

Sunday will be Foster's first test in charge of the All Blacks and Dave Rennie's first as Wallabies coach, while there are a host of fresh faces in the Australian team.

Foster concedes both teams are heading into unchartered territory.

"We've probably got the same difficulties as them. They've watched out domestic comp and we've watched theirs, but our players haven't played against each other. We've got two new coaching groups, some new players, a disrupted year and a little bit of the unknown, so that makes it a huge test on both sides."






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