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New All Black coach surprises with flyhalf choice

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: New All Black coach Scott Robertson on Thursday left star playmaker Beauden Barrett on the bench for the first Test against England in Dunedin.

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Having spent most of 2024 playing in Japan, Barrett was named among the replacements, with Damian McKenzie preferred at flyhalf for Saturday’s series opener in Dunedin.

Stephen Perofeta of the Blues was named at fullback in the side that will be captained for the first time by Beauden’s brother, lock forward Scott Barrett.

McKenzie will partner scrumhalf TJ Perenara, who returns to the All Blacks for the first time since rupturing his Achilles tendon in late 2022.

Chiefs flank Samipeni Finau won a contentious battle for the blindside flank berth.

The hard-hitting loose forward joins world player of 2023 Ardie Savea and Dalton Papali’i in the back row.

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Robertson sprung few surprises in his first selection, naming eight starting players that took the field for New Zealand’s most recent Test – the 11-12 World Cup Final loss to South Africa in Paris last October.

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Beauden Barrett, who can play either flyhalf or fullback, had worn the No.15 shirt in the defeat to the Springboks.

Robertson left out all of the squad’s five uncapped players from the matchday 23.

The All Blacks are without three Test cap centurions who retired after the World Cup – locks Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick and scrumhalf Aaron Smith.

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Influential flyhalf Richie Mo’unga was ineligible after playing a season in Japan.

New Zealand: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Tele’a, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Samipeni Finau, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ethan De Groot.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Beauden Barrett.

Date: Saturday, July 6
Venue: Otago Stadium, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19.05 (08.05 BST; 07.05 GMT)
Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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