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Projected Starters Series: New Zealand

Projected Starters Series: New Zealand

New Zealand

Fresh from Rugby Championship glory, New Zealand are looking to continue their momentum, regain dominance over the northern hemisphere and rise back up the rankings.

It has been far from plain sailing for Ian Foster, who faced scrutiny from New Zealand media and fans alike after Autumn Nations Series defeats to Ireland and France a year ago were followed by a first-ever series defeat to Ireland on home soil.

It did not get any easier when Argentina made history with a first win in New Zealand, but Foster and his team responded well to claim the Rugby Championship – now for another European adventure.

The All Blacks will face Wales, Scotland and England in the Autumn Nations Series after their visit to Japan this weekend, but who will make up their starting XV this November?

Front Row

There has been significant change in the All Blacks front row in the past year, but it seems as though heading into the Autumn Nations Series, Foster has made his decision as to who his preferred trio is.

Ethan de Groot appears to have nailed down the loosehead position after starting in their five most recent Test matches throughout the Rugby Championship, with George Bower likely to provide cover from the bench.

Samisoni Taukei’aho

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Samisoni Taukei’aho was the top try-scorer in the Rugby Championship with five and he has certainly put himself forward as the starting hooker, with experienced duo Dane Coles and Codie Taylor to battle out for the impact role.

Tighthead is probably the most open of the three positions, with Nepo Laulala, Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Tyrel Lomax battling out for the No.3 jersey, but Laulala, returning from injury, will be the man to start against Japan and could be the favourite to hold onto that role.

Second Row

There has been very little debate about the All Blacks second row for more than a decade now and heading into the 2022 Autumn Nations Series there is no difference.

 

Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock have formed arguably the greatest second-row pairing in modern rugby history and, provided Whitelock can return from injury in time, that will continue this autumn – with Scott Barrett on standby.

Back Row

With Sam Cane captain, there is little to no doubt that he will lead New Zealand from openside, joined by arguably Foster’s best player Ardie Savea from No.8.

That leaves just the one real position up for grabs at blindside, and there have been a few options tried over the summer, with Scott Barrett, Dalton Papali’i and Akira Ioane all starting a Test against Ireland, but it appears Shannon Frizzell may be Foster’s man after starting in three of the Rugby Championship matches – with the 28-year-old starting against Japan.

Half-Backs

A player never owns a shirt in international rugby, but in the case of Aaron Smith and the All Blacks scrum-half jersey it comes very close.

Aaron Smith scrum-halves

His half-back partner is a little less clear, with Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga both options, but it would appear the latter has taken pole position in the fly-half jersey of late, with Barrett either at full-back or coming on as a replacement during the Rugby Championship.

Centres

Arguably the most open area in the New Zealand XV, there are plenty of options in the centres for Foster.

Rieko Ioane has been the chosen one at outside centre for some time and it seems inevitable that he will once again don the No.13 jersey, but at inside centre it is less clear.

David Havili started five of the six Rugby Championship games but following injuries to both him and Quinn Tupaea in the dramatic 39-37 win over Australia, Jordie Barrett starred at inside centre – and impressed in a comfortable win over the Wallabies a week later.

Havili is back in the squad now while Roger Tuivasa-Sheck starts against Japan this weekend. But after impressing in his first outing at inside centre, do not bet against Jordie Barrett making the position his own.

Back Three

There are several options here, and if Jordie Barrett does make the move to inside centre and with Mo’unga seemingly taking the fly-half role, full-back seems the likely place Beauden Barrett will slot into this All Blacks team.

New Zealand Sevu Reece

Will Jordan will be a certainty when fit, but it is not currently known when he will return from his inner ear injury, leaving spots open for both Caleb Clarke and Sevu Reece to start together in the same back three – with Jordan taking one of those spots upon his return.

Possible New Zealand starting XV:

15 Beauden Barrett
14 Sevu Reece
13 Rieko Ioane
12 Jordie Barrett
11 Caleb Clarke
10 Richie Mo’unga
9 Aaron Smith

1 Ethan De Groot
2 Samisoni Taukei’aho
3 Nepo Laulala
4 Brodie Retallick
5 Sam Whitelock
6 Shannon Frizzell
7 Sam Cane (C)
8 Ardie Savea

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