New Zealand picked three rookies in a remodeled team for the first of three rugby Tests against Ireland, retaining just seven of the starting lineup from last year’s World Cup final victory.
Lock Brodie Retallick, scrum-half Aaron Smith and wing Julian Savea will make their debuts in two days at Auckland’s Eden Park in the All Blacks’ first match since beating France 8-7 in October to win their first world title since 1987.
“We picked them in the squad because they have all shown that they have special qualities which they now get the opportunity to show on the international stage,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said in an e-mailed statement.
Hansen’s starting team has a combined 527 Test appearances, down on the 708 amassed by Graham Henry’s selection against the French eight months ago. Captain Richie McCaw, Israel Dagg, Conrad Smith, Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks and Tony Woodcock are the survivors from the World Cup final.
Henry stepped down as head coach in November and is currently working with Argentina to help prepare the Pumas for their entry into the southern hemisphere rugby championship later this year.
Ireland, which failed to beat the All Blacks in 24 previous Tests, named wing Simon Zebo and prop Declan Fitzpatrick to make their debuts.
Australia earlier made eight changes to the team that started the 9-6 upset loss to Scotland two days ago for its series opener against European champion Wales in Brisbane on June 9. Wing Joe Tomane was later ruled out after injuring his ankle in training and replaced by Cooper Vuna.
Prop Benn Robinson was chosen for his first Test since November 2010 after missing the 2011 international season because of a knee injury.
Wales goes into the first of three Tests against Australia with 11 of the starting lineup that sealed a Six Nations Grand Slam sweep by beating France in March. Flanker Sam Warburton returns as captain following an 11-week break since leaving the field at halftime in the 16-9 win against the French.
The Wallabies, the No. 2 team in the International Rugby Board’s world rankings, have won eight of the nine Tests played between the two teams in Australia. Wales’s sole win was 43 years ago in Sydney.
“Australia will be disappointed after their defeat to Scotland, but that will make them all the more dangerous for us,” Wales caretaker coach Rob Howley said. “We all appreciate the enormity of the task ahead of us. The long term stats don’t make happy reading for the Welsh against the Wallabies.”
ALL BLACKS: Israel Dagg, Zac Guildford, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Julian Savea, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Victor Vito, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Hikawera Elliot, Ben Franks, Ali Williams, Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.
IRELAND: Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Keith Earls, Simon Zebo, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony, Donnacha Ryan, Dan Tuohy, Declan Fitzpatrick, Rory Best, Cian Healy.
Reserves: Sean Cronin, Ronan Loughney, Donncha O’Callaghan, Kevin McLaughlin, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O’Gara, Darren Cave.
AUSTRALIA: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Cooper Vuna, Rob Horne, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane, Berrick Barnes, Will Genia, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock (captain), Scott Higginbotham, Nathan Sharpe, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.
Reserves: Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Nic White, Anthony Faingaa, Mike Harris.
WALES: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Alex Cuthbert, Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips, Toby Faletau, Sam Warburton (captain), Dan Lydiate, Bradley Davies, Luke Charteris, Gethin Jenkins, Ken Owens, Adam Jones.
Reserves: Matthew Rees, Paul James, Alun Wyn Jones, Ryan Jones, Lloyd Williams, James Hook, Ashley Beck.