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Naholo to make All Black debut against Pumas

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has named his All Black team to play Argentina in Friday’s Rugby Championship opener with winger Waisake Naholo making his international debut.

Highlanders winger Naholo will make his debut from the starting line up while hooker Codie Taylor has been named his make his debut from the replacements bench.

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Twenty-four-year-old Naholo comes in for George Moala in one of six changes from the matchday 23 which played Samoa last week.

Lock Brodie Retallick is back in the starting XV, replacing Samuel Whitelock, with Jeremy Thrush coming in as lock reserve.

TJ Perenara is at halfback, with Andy Ellis, who played his 250th first-class match last week, moving to the bench; while Ma’a Nonu has been named at centre in his 95th Test, and Ryan Crotty moving to the bench.

Taylor replaces Hikawera Elliot as reserve hooker and the only other change in the reserves sees loose forward Liam Messam come in for Matt Todd.

It’s another hugely experienced All Blacks team for the Investec Rugby Championship opener, with prop Tony Woodcock to make his 100th Test start in his outstanding career.

The matchday 23 boasts 1,068 caps worth of experience and an average age of 28 years.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “We are very much looking forward to our Friday night Test against an improving Argentinian team. There has been a lot of talk about the Rugby World Cup and so forth, but this Test match is all about the here and now.

“It’s important that we get away to a really good start in the Investec Rugby Championship as we will only be playing each other once this year and we only have this one home game. We will need to get points early if we are going to give ourselves a chance of winning the Championship.

“We have a lot of respect for Argentina and what they bring and understand that we will have to improve our game quite considerably from our Samoan effort.

“With that in mind, the selectors did not want to make too many changes. It’s a fine balancing act between getting game time for those who need it, giving others the rest they may need, and giving ourselves an opportunity to see players and combinations in the heat of the Test battle so we can make good selections going forward.”

“We know the Argentinians will be big and fast and bring a physicality to the contest. But we are also expecting them to bring some panache through their backs as we have detected a greater desire from them to involve their whole team in their game.

“It will be a special occasion for all the Christchurch men in the group playing in front of their home crowd and I know they are all looking to put in a big performance.”

New Zealand

1. Tony Woodcock , 2. Keven Mealamu , 3. Owen Franks , 4. Luke Romano , 5. Brodie Retallick , 6. Jerome Kaino , 7. Richie McCaw (c) , 8. Kieran Read , 9. TJ Perenara , 10. Daniel Carter , 11. Charles Piutau , 12. Sonny Bill Williams , 13. Ma’a Nonu , 14. Waisake Naholo , 15. Israel Dagg

Replacements:16. Codie Taylor , 17. Wyatt Crockett , 18. Nepo Laulala , 19. Jeremy Thrush , 20. Liam Messam , 21. Andy Ellis , 22. Colin Slade , 23. Ryan Crotty

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