New Zealand rugby selectors picked Jarrad Hoeata and Colin Slade to make their starting debuts in the All Blacks’ season-opening Test against Fiji in two days.
Hoeata, who was the only uncapped player chosen in the 30-man squad on July 10, was named in the second row alongside Ali Williams, who returns to the national team for the first time since November 2008.
Slade, who twice broke his jaw during the Super Rugby competition, will make his first Test start as backup to first-choice No. 10 Dan Carter having previously come off the bench against Australia last year. The match in Dunedin is the first of five for the All Blacks before they open the Rugby World Cup on Sept. 9 against Tonga in Auckland.
“This is an important Test for us as we kick off this year’s season,” All Blacks Coach Graham Henry said in a statement. “We have got some real competition for places and it’s exciting for those players picked and they will keen to put their best foot forward.”
The All Blacks have played Fiji four times since 1987, winning 91-0 when the teams last met six years ago in Auckland.
ALL BLACKS: Wyatt Crockett, Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Jarrad Hoeata, Ali Williams, Adam Thomson, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Jimmy Cowan, Colin Slade, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Zac Guildford, Mils Muliaina.
Reserves: Corey Flynn, John Afoa, Samuel Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Piri Weepu, Daniel Carter, Ben Smith.
FIJI: Iliesa Keresoni, Timoci Naqusa, Albert Vulivuli, Ravai Fatiaki, Naipolioni Nalag, Seremaia Bai, Nemia Serelevu, Sakiusa Matadigo, Akapusi Qera, Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Rupeni Nasiga, Sekonaia Kalou, Deacon Manu (captain), Sunia Koto, Campese Ma’afu.
Reserves: Viliame Veikoso, Setefano Somoca, Josefa Domolailai, Malakai Ravulo, Vitori Buatava, Taniela Rawaqa, Vereniki Goneva.