New Zealand coach Graham Henry has included three Test debutants in his starting line-up and another three possible new caps on the replacements bench for Saturday’s showdown with Ireland in New Plymouth.
Ben Franks, 26, will make his Test bow alongside his 22-year-old brother Owen in the All Blacks’ front row, having featured for a New Zealand selection against Munster in November 2008.
Israel Dagg, who turned 22 on Sunday, will win his first cap at full-back, while Benson Stanley will become All Black number 1102 when he lines up in the Kiwi midfield at inside centre.
The three newcomers to Test rugby on the hosts’ replacements bench are Aaron Cruden (21), Victor Vito (23) and Sam Whitelock (21).
Commenting on the selection, All Blacks coach Graham Henry said: “It’s an exciting team that will play the Irish – we have picked experienced All Blacks together with those players who have been in form throughout the Rebel Sport Super 14 and deserve their opportunity at Test level.
“They know the Irish will be a huge challenge but they are looking forward to it.”
Richie McCaw will again captain the All Blacks in his 81st Test and will become the third equal most-capped All Black alongside former scrum half Justin Marshall and one Test behind current team-mate Mils Muliaina (82).
McCaw said the squad had gelled together well since coming together in Auckland last week and the players had also been buoyed by the support from Taranaki fans since arriving in New Plymouth on Sunday.
“It’s been awesome. From the welcome at the airport through to the thousands of fans who turned up at Yarrow Stadium yesterday (for the All Blacks Open Day), the fans have been fantastic and we are looking forward to their vocal support this weekend,” he said.
Like Ireland, the All Blacks have their fair share of injuries. Andrew Hore, Ali Williams, Mike Delany and Sitiveni Sivivatu are long term absentees, while a knee injury has ruled centre Ma’a Nonu out of New Zealand’s upcoming games.
Mils Muliaina, Richard Kahui and Tom Donnelly were also not considered for the New Plymouth tie, but are expected back in the coming weeks.
NEW ZEALAND TEAM & REPLACEMENTS (v Ireland, Steinlager Series Test, Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, Saturday, June 12, kick-off 7.35pm local time/8.35am Irish time):
15 – Israel Dagg (Highlanders) *
14 – Cory Jane (Hurricanes)
13 – Conrad Smith (Hurricanes)
12 – Benson Stanley (Blues) *
11 – Joe Rokocoko (Blues)
10 – Dan Carter (Crusaders)
9 – Jimmy Cowan (Highlanders)
1 – Ben Franks (Crusaders) *
2 – Keven Mealamu (Blues)
3 – Owen Franks (Crusaders)
4 – Brad Thorn (Crusaders)
5 – Anthony Boric (Blues)
6 – Jerome Kaino (Blues)
7 – Richie McCaw (Crusaders) (capt)
8 – Kieran Read (Crusaders)
16 – Aled de Malmanche IChiefs)
17 – Neemia Tialata (Hurricanes)
18 – Sam Whitelock (Crusaders) *
19 – Victor Vito (Hurricanes) *
20 – Piri Weepu (Hurricanes)
21 – Aaron Cruden (Hurricanes) *
22 – Zac Guildford (Crusaders)
* Denotes uncapped player