URAYASU – World champions New Zealand on Thursday named two uncapped players among a second-string starting line-up for this weekend’s Test with Japan in Tokyo.
The All Blacks called up loose forward Dalton Papalii and midfielder Matt Proctor to a new-look XV, with six more players set to make their Test debuts from the bench on Saturday.
Luke Whitelock, who skippered the side against a France XV last year, will captain for the first time in a Test, while hooker Dane Coles makes his return after missing almost a year with a knee injury.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has made wholesale changes after the All Blacks beat Australia 37-20 in Yokohama last weekend to complete a 3-0 Bledisloe Cup whitewash.
Whitelock follows in the footsteps of his brother Sam, who captained the team last year. He will become the 70th player to skipper the All Blacks when he leads them out against 2019 World Cup hosts Japan.
“He’s a natural leader,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said of Whitelock.
“(He) did a fantastic job leading the team against the French XV last year, and will be ably assisted by the senior players in the team.
“While this is a relatively inexperienced group, the expectation is that when you pull on the black jersey, then a top performance is required.”
New Zealand have met Japan three times previously, racking up a combined 282 points, including a World Cup record 145-17 demolition of the Brave Blossoms in 1995.
But Hansen, whose core players have left for Europe to prepare for November Tests against England, Ireland and Italy, warned his players against taking Japan too lightly.
“We’re expecting Japan to play a high-tempo, hit-and-run game as opposed to having an arm wrestle,” he said.
“No doubt they’ll have a trick or two up their sleeve. So we’ll need to be sharp of mind and bring our own physicality and intensity to the contest.”
The New Zealand team named on Thursday for Saturday’s Test against Japan in Tokyo (15-1) is:
Jordie Barrett; Nehe Milner-Skudder, Matt Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Waisake Naholo; Richie Mo”unga, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi; Luke Whitelock (capt), Dalton Papalii, Vaea Fifita; Jackson Hemopo, Patrick Tuipulotu; Angus Ta”avao, Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi
Reserves: Liam Coltman, Tim Perry, Tyrel Lomax, Dillon Hunt, Gareth Evans, Mitch Drummond, Brett Cameron, George Bridge
Agence France-Presse (AFP)