Youthful All Blacks side to face Italy
Sam Cane will captain a New Zealand team with an average age of 25 for the match in Rome; other internationals this weekend see England take on South Africa, Wales tackling Argentina, Australia playing Scotland, Ireland up against Canada and France meeting Samoa
Flanker Sam Cane will captain a youthful All Blacks team against Italy at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
Cane has led New Zealand only once before, against Namibia at last year’s Rugby World Cup. He will captain a team which has an average age of 25, an average of 22 test caps, and which includes two players who are likely to make test debuts from the reserves.
Hooker Liam Coltman and utility back Rieko Ioane were named in an All Blacks match-day line-up for the first time, while lock Scott Barrett and fullback Damian McKenzie will play their second tests, and make their first test starts.
Only three players who started against Ireland in Chicago last weekend – Cane, lock Patrick Tuipulotu, and winger Waisake Naholo – will start against Italy. Former world player of the year Brodie Retallick, recovered from concussion, was named in the reserves.
“There were always going to be changes,” coach Steve Hansen said. “It’s that time of year where if we don’t make changes we were going to run out of petrol. It’s an opportunity for some people to tell us what they’ve got at this level.”
The All Blacks are attempting to bounce back from losing to Ireland 40-29, their first loss to the Irish in 111 years and their first test loss in 19 matches. They have never lost to Italy.
England have given centre Elliot Daly his first test start and recalled Tom Wood and Jonny May after international absences of more than a year for their match against South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.
While Wood and May were brought back in by coach Eddie Jones largely because of injury problems, Daly got his chance as a reward for consistently strong displays for Wasps in the domestic league and after five appearances as a replacement for England this year.
A swift and elusive runner, Daly brings an excitement factor to England’s backline outside his more conservative midfield partner, Owen Farrell. Daly replaced Jonathan Joseph, who has been a permanent fixture for England since Jones took charge after last year’s Rugby World Cup.
“Test matches are always about the contest up front and South Africa pride themselves in the set piece, but we’ll be ready for the challenge,” said coach Eddie Jones.
South Africa’s Francois Venter has been picked to make his test debut against England. The outside centre was just one of five survivors from the team that drew 31-31 in the non-cap clash with the Barbarians at Wembley last weekend to make it into the test side for South Africa’s opening end-of-year international.
The others were fly half Pat Lambie, scrum half Rudy Paige, flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit and prop Tendai Mtawarira.
South Africa have not lost to England since 2006, a run spanning 12 tests.
Wales have reacted to their heavy loss to Australia by dropping long-time inside centre Jamie Roberts amid six changes for the test against Argentina on Saturday.
Another of the changes sees regular captain Sam Warburton return at blindside flanker instead of Dan Lydiate but he doesn’t reclaim the armband, with veteran prop Gethin Jenkins staying in the role.
Forwards Tomas Francis and Alun-Wyn Jones are recalled, while scrum half Gareth Davies, winger Liam Williams and centre Jonathan Davies return to the back division for the match in Cardiff.
Interim coach Rob Howley is looking for solutions after Wales’ 32-8 hammering by the Wallabies last Saturday and the biggest gamble is the dropping of the powerful Roberts, who has made 83 test appearances as the axis of the backline.
Australia’s in-form scrum half Will Genia will replace Nick Phipps against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday in coach Mike Cheika’s only change to the team that crushed Wales 32-8 in Cardiff last weekend.
Genia is available after being released by his French club Stade Francais following a stellar season and Cheika is pleased with the stiff competition for the number nine spot in the Wallabies’ squad.
“I think Phipps had two really good games, I do, against New Zealand then against Wales,” Cheika said.
“But Genia, I think he’s been one of our best all season. I just feel that this is a good game for him to play, come back in and get straight into it and then Nick will finish the game.”
Cheika also praised number eight Lopeti Timani, who has started Australia’s last three tests after replacing David Pocock against Argentina last month.
“He’s continually making me pick him,” Cheika added. “He’s doing lots of good tight work and also when he needs to carry he’s carrying well.”
Pocock will start at blindside flanker for the second time in his test career, having played there against Wales, while the returning Dean Mumm has been named among the substitutes.
Hooker Ross Ford will become only the third player to reach 100 caps for Scotland as he spearheads a new-look front row against Australia.
Ford, who made his debut against Australia 12 years ago, will join Chris Paterson (109) and Sean Lamont (105) as Scotland’s only cap centurions when Vern Cotter’s side open their autumn campaign at Murrayfield.
His experience could prove vital as he will line up alongside debutant Allan Dell and Zander Fagerson, who makes his first international start.
“To play 100 test matches for your country is an incredible achievement, with his lasting dedication keeping him among the best hookers in the world for a decade,” Cotter said.
“He is a consummate professional and, at 32, he has plenty left to give in a Scotland jersey.”
Flanker Hamish Watson and centre Huw Jones will also make their first test starts as Scotland face Australia for the first time since their heartbreaking 35-34 defeat in the World Cup quarter-final last year.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt named a completely different side for Saturday’s test against Canada from the team that beat New Zealand for the first time last week, handing Garry Ringrose a debut and welcoming back Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony.
The injury-prone O’Brien lasted 20 minutes of this year’s Six Nations before a hamstring injury ended his campaign while fellow flanker O’Mahony has not played for Ireland since a knee injury suffered at the 2015 World Cup put him out for a year.
The exciting 21-year-old Leinster centre Ringrose is one of three new caps to start alongside Munster’s Jack O’Donoghue and Billy Holland. James Tracy, John Ryan, Dan Leavy, and Niyi Adeolokun could also win their first caps off the bench.
Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Reuters