New Zealand All Blacks Rugby News

Read returns to captain All Blacks against Lions

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All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has named his team to play the British & Irish Lions at Eden Park with Kieran Read returning from injury to lead the side.

With Read returning from injury and starting as captain, Ardie Savea moves to the replacements bench.

Rieko Ioane has been named on the left wing replacing Julian Savea in what will be Ioane’s first start in his third Test and his third match against the Lions on this tour.

Also in the backline Ryan Crotty returns from injury and has been named at centre, with Anton Lienert-Brown moving to the bench.

In the replacements first five-eighth Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga have been bracketed as first-five cover, with a decision to be made tomorrow.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “This was a really tough team to pick because there were a number of players in great form vying for positions. But in the end the three selectors felt this was the best combination to take on the Lions in the first Test.”

Hansen added it was great to have Read and Crotty back.

“They’ve both been on target to return for this game all the way through, are both in great shape and, together with the rest of the squad, they’re really excited at what’s ahead of us.

“I’d also like to congratulate Rieko on getting his first start for the All Blacks. His outstanding form throughout the season this year, including against the Lions, has earned him his start on the wing.”

Hansen said there was a massive amount of excitement within the team.

“There’s a real understanding that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The players are well aware of the history of the All Blacks and the Lions and are determined to respect that history with their performances.

“We know this is a very good British and Irish Lions team; probably one of the best to have toured here. It’ll be a battle of contrasting styles which makes it an intriguing Test to prepare for and to be part of. We know the importance of this match and we will bring real energy and intensity. It’ll be a physical Test but, just as importantly, it will be a mental test.

“There will be a unique and electric atmosphere at Eden Park on Saturday night. It’s something we’re really looking forward to and we can’t wait.”

New Zealand All Blacks

1. Joe Moody , 2. Codie Taylor , 3. Owen Franks , 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Samuel Whitelock , 6. Jerome Kaino, 7. Sam Cane , 8. Kieran Read (C) ,9. Aaron Smith, 10. Beauden Barrett , 11. Rieko Ioane, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 13. Ryan Crotty, 14. Israel Dagg , 15. Ben Smith

Replacements : 16. Nathan Harris, 17. Wyatt Crockett , 18. Charlie Faumuina , 19. Scott Barrett , 20. Ardie Savea, 21. TJ Perenara , 22. Aaron Cruden / Lima Sopoaga , 23. Anton Lienert-Brown

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