Experienced All Blacks To Take On Pumas

New Zealand has named its match day squad play Argentina in its opening match of Rugby World Cup 2015 at Wembley Stadium, London on Sunday.  All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said it was exciting to be naming the team for the first match of the tournament:  ‘We’re all itching to get started and with 11 of the 23 players about to take part in their first Rugby World Cup match, there’s real excitement, enthusiasm and hunger in the group.  We all can’t wait for our Tournament to start.’  The 11 Kiwis marking their first RWC appearance are Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Julian Savea, Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick, Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett.

Hansen said the squad has had a great build up since arriving in the United Kingdom:  ‘We’ve had a wonderful reception here in London.  The boys have really enjoyed connecting with our fans and this wonderful city.  But the business is about to start and we’re all looking forward to that because, after all, that’s why we’re here.  We’ve selected what we believe is a very strong team.  We have the utmost respect for Argentina who we know a lot more about now because of their involvement in The Rugby Championship.  But it also means they know a lot more about us.  We will need to be at our very best to get our Tournament away to a good start.  We’ve had a great preparation and there will be no excuses for not performing on Sunday.’

The All Blacks and Los Pumas have played against each other 21 times with 20 wins to the New Zealanders and a single draw.   That playing history includes two Tests at Rugby World Cups: in pool play in 1987 and in the quarterfinal at RWC 2011.  Conversely, Richie McCaw, who will again captain the side, will be playing in his 17th Rugby World Cup match, an All Blacks record.

Former England prop Jason Leonard currently holds the overall record with 22 RWC appearances.  Tony Woodcock will equal former Leonard’s world record of 104 Test starts at prop.  Teh New Zealand match day squad is as follows (with Test caps in brackets):

1. Tony Woodcock (115)
2. Dane Coles (30)
3. Owen Franks (72)
4. Brodie Retallick (41)
5. Samuel Whitelock (66)
6. Jerome Kaino (60)
7. Richie McCaw – captain (142)
8. Kieran Read (77)
9. Aaron Smith (41)
10. Daniel Carter (106)
11. Julian Savea (35)
12. Ma’a Nonu (97)
13. Conrad Smith (88)
14. Nehe Milner-Skudder (2)
15. Ben Smith (41)

Reserves

16. Keven Mealamu (126)
17. Wyatt Crockett (40)
18. Charlie Faumuina (27)
19. Victor Vito (28)
20. Sam Cane (24)
21. TJ Perenara (15)
22. Beauden Barrett (30)
23. Sonny Bill Williams (26)

Photo credit: Martin Myers