9 Oct 2020

All Blacks selectors play it safe and players chuffed they'll be home for Xmas

5:08 pm on 9 October 2020

Three uncapped All Blacks will debut from the bench in Sunday's Bledisloe Cup opener and the squad is relieved they won't be in quarantine over Christmas.

New All Blacks Tupou Vaai, Caleb Clarke, Will Jordan and Hoskins Sotutu. All Blacks team naming, NZ Rugby House, Wellington, New Zealand, Sunday 6th September 2020. Copyright photo: John Cowpland / www.photosport.nz

New All Blacks Tupou Vaai, Caleb Clarke, Will Jordan and Hoskins Sotutu. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2020

Coach Ian Foster has stuck with the tried and true as he attempts to make a winning start to his reign, picking Richie Mo'unga at first-five and Beauden Barrett at fullback.

"We just feel that as this team is new and as we learn what we want to do, having two fantastic decision makers on the park is just going to help guide us around so, it's a selection for this test."

Foster has named Jordie Barrett on the wing despite conceding he's the best fullback in New Zealand right now.

He believes the experienced heads of Mo'unga and Beauden Barrett will help the All Blacks find their feet in their first test of the year.

"Having both those players on is really important. Probably the form 15 in the country has been Jordie, but he is playing and I think you'll find him in the back field a lot anyway so, I think we've got the best of both worlds."

Beauden Barrett after his try with Richie Mo'unga during the first half of New Zealand v Ireland quarterfinal at Rugby World Cup 2019.

Photo: PhotoSport

George Bridge is on the left wing with the Blues young gun Caleb Clarke to make his debut from the bench following in the footsteps of his father and former All Black Eroni Clarke.

Lock Tupou Vaai and Hoskins Sotutu are also set for their first cap, but Foster isn't ready to throw them in the deep end just yet.

"We've aired on the side of a bit of experience with George (Bridge) and we have a lot of faith in him. I know Caleb is really excited and this is just a nice way to ease him into it with the three debutants coming off the bench. We know there will be plenty of energy coming anyway."

Foster's counterpart the Wallabies coach Dave Rennie a little more experimental in naming three debutants in his starting side.

For the born and bred New Zealander and former Upper Hutt club coach, the test holds plenty of significance on a personal level.

"Obviously I'm a Wellington boy and to play the first test in Wellington, there's a little bit of irony there. But look I'm really excited and comfortable with the decision I made (to take on the Wallabies coaching job). I'm going to have all my family there and all my three sons and two grandaughters are coming down to the game, so that's going to make it pretty special as well."

New Zealand's Rieko Ioane celebrates scoring a try with Beauden Barrett and TJ Perenara.

New Zealand's Rieko Ioane celebrates scoring a try with Beauden Barrett and TJ Perenara. Photo: © Photosport Ltd 2017 www.photosport.nz

It will also be a special test for Rieko Ioane, who will start as All Blacks centre after moving from the wing.

He denies he's been hassling Foster to give him a crack in the midfield, despite Jordie Barrett's claims to the contrary.

"Haha, nah, nah nothing like that, whatever team I'm in, Blues, Auckland or whatever, I'm just happy to play," said Ioane, before Barrett piped up, "You've been whingeing at me for two years to play centre."

"You were crying last night about having the 14 jersey not fullback," Ioane retorted, much to the mirth of the gathered media.

Jokes aside the players are chuffed the Rugby Championship scheduling saga has come to an end, with the final All Blacks/Wallabies match being moved from December the 12th to October the 31st.

Ardie Savea performing the haka before the All Blacks Test against Australia in Perth in 2019.

Ardie Savea Photo: Photosport

That means the All Blacks will be out of quarantine by Christmas, much to the relief of star loose forward and expectant father Ardie Savea, who'll start at No.8 alongside captain and openside Sam Cane and blindside Shannon Frizell.

"Yeah mate, it's a tricky one because I've got number two (Savea and his wife Saskia's second child, a son) on the way in a week and a half. So, it was quite tricky whether the team left and I stayed behind, but everything has fallen into place so, quite happy mate."

Another piece of happy news for the Rugby Championship is the likely confirmation over the next few days that South Africa will be committing to the tournament.

RNZ understands the Springboks have said yes to attending despite having played next to no rugby this year, with the team just waiting on approval from the South African government.