Sotutu to make first All Blacks start

Blues loose forward Hoskins Sotutu will make his first start for the All Blacks in their Tri-Nations opener against the Wallabies in Sydney on Saturday.

The match-day 23 features the selection of Sotutu at No 8 in one of three changes to the All Blacks pack from their win against the Wallabies in the second Bledisloe Cup Test.

The 22-year-old Sotutu, who starred for the Blues in Super Rugby Aotearoa and made his Test debut off the bench in the first Bledisloe Cup Test in Wellington, replaces Ardie Savea, who is on paternity leave.

‘He’s had plenty of minutes already in the Bledisloe Cup series and he’s ready to go,’ All Blacks coach Ian Foster said. ‘He’s excited.  It’s a chance to start his first Test, so it’s pretty special for him.’

There are two more changes to the starting forward pack for Saturday: Karl Tu’inukuafe comes in at loosehead prop for Joe Moody, who is still going through HIA (head injury assessment) protocols, while Samuel Whitelock returns at starting lock.

The All Blacks backline remains unchanged from the one that beat Australia 27-7 in Auckland.

On the bench, Tyrel Lomax is among the substitutes in place of  Nepo Laulala, while there are returns to the match-day squad for Ngani Laumape and Reiko Ioane.

Foster said this week’s approach to what would be a massive Test match was simple.

‘It’s the third Test of a four-Test series and the Bledisloe Cup is on the line.  It’s a real chance for us to come into their home patch, a place which they take a lot of pride in playing and for a trophy which means a lot to them, and we need to show them how much it means to us.  The chance to go and win a trophy that’s precious to us is exciting.’

Foster said the All Blacks were also hugely excited by the prospect of winning the Bledisloe Cup on Australian soil, the first time since 2009 that the team had had that challenge.

‘None of our players, even our experienced ones, have had to win the trophy in Australia.  In the past the deciding game has always been in New Zealand, so I think it’s a great challenge for us.’

All Blacks – 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Jordie Barrett, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 Reiko Ioane.

Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images