Saturday 16 December 2017

Ben Smith returns as New Zealand name team to play Samoa

Ben Smith of the Highlanders looks on ahead of the round 14 Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Waratahs at Forsyth Barr Stadium on May 27, 2017 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)
Ben Smith of the Highlanders looks on ahead of the round 14 Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Waratahs at Forsyth Barr Stadium on May 27, 2017 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Highlanders and New Zealand full-back Ben Smith will make his return to rugby this Friday when the All Blacks take on Samoa at Eden Park.

Smith, who was in doubt at one stage for next weekend's opening test against the British & Irish Lions, will return to the All Blacks squad to become New Zealand's 68th captain with incumbent skipper Kieran Read continuing to recover from a broken thumb.

Smith will line up in a familiar back three alongside Crusaders utility Israel Dagg and Hurricanes winger Julian Savea, but the decision to appoint the 31-year-old as captain was a straightforward selection for All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen.

"We'd like to congratulate everyone who has been selected for this Test, particularly 'Benda' (Ben Smith), who will captain the side for the first time," said Smith.

"He's been our Vice-Captain for a few years now and captain of the Highlanders, where he's been doing a fantastic job, so was the logical choice. He leads by example and is an inspiration to his teammates.

"It's also going to be a big night for Jordie [Barrett] and Vaea [Fifita] as they're both likely to play a part on the night. They've both been in great form and we're looking forward to seeing what they can do at this level.

"The Samoans are always a challenge and will play with a high level of physicality and skill.  At the very minimum, we will need to match that.

"This first week has been about bringing together the players from the five different Super clubs and reintroducing them to the All Blacks way.  We've had a good week and are really looking forward to this match."

New Zealand team to play Samoa (with Test caps in brackets. * denotes new cap):

1. Joe Moody (24)

2. Codie Taylor (15)

3. Owen Franks (90)

4. Brodie Retallick (60)

5. Samuel Whitelock (84)

6. Jerome Kaino (77)

7. Sam Cane (40)

8. Ardie Savea (12)

9. Aaron Smith (58)

10. Beauden Barrett (49)

11. Julian Savea (52)

12. Sonny Bill Williams (33)

13. Anton Lienert-Brown (9)

14. Israel Dagg (61)

15. Ben Smith - captain (60)

16. Nathan Harris (4)

17. Wyatt Crockett (58)

18. Charlie Faumuina (46)

19. Scott Barrett (4)

20. Vaea Fifita*

21. T J Perenara (29)

22. Lima Sopoaga (6)

23. Jordie Barrett *

Online Editors

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport