Record American Crowd To See All Blacks Take On US Eagles

The All Blacks team to play the United States of America this weekend has been named, with the New Zealand selectors unveiling a team combining young Kiwi talent and experienced heads for the historic match at Soldier Field, Chicago.  The match this Saturday 1 November is a 61,500 capacity sell-out, with the New Zealanders playing in front of a record attendance for a rugby match in the USA.  The starting backline features the experienced duo of Israel Dagg at fullback and Cory Jane on the right wing, with Charles Piutau on the left wing.

Sonny Bill Williams returns to the All Blacks midfield for his first game since August 2012, starting in the 12 jersey alongside Ryan Crotty at centre.  Aaron Cruden returns to the playmaker’s role in the 10 jersey, with TJ Perenara at halfback.  The team will be captained by number eight and 2013 IRB Player of the Year Kieran Read, who will lead the side for the eighth time in his 70th Test.

Also in the forwards, Sam Cane starts at openside flanker with Victor Vito on the blindside; Jeremy Thrush and Patrick Tuipulotu are the locking duo in the second row.  In the front row, hooker Nathan Harris gets his first Test start after coming off the bench against Argentina last month; Joe Moody also gets his second Test start at loosehead prop, with Charlie Faumuina at tighthead prop.  Young Counties Manukau and Chiefs halfback Augustine Pulu has the opportunity to make his Test debut from the bench on Saturday, while All Blacks Test centurion and world rugby’s leading points scorer, first five-eighth Daniel Carter also makes his return from injury from the bench.  Wing Julian Savea has also been named as the outside back cover.

In the forwards reserves, the All Blacks have the experienced 120-Test veteran Keven Mealamu to call on, together with his fellow front rowers Wyatt Crockett and Ben Franks.  Brodie Retallick is the reserve lock, with Liam Messam reserve loose forward.  Head Coach Steve Hansen said,  “This is going to be an exciting occasion for the team, playing the USA in front of a record crowd here in Chicago, and it’s great to be here representing the All Blacks and New Zealand.  It’s another chance for those selected to pull on the jersey and play well.   On this MyRepublic Northern Tour, we want to give all players in the squad the opportunity to grow their game – and we also want to develop our game as a team – and it starts on Saturday.  While we are giving a number of players another opportunity this weekend, our expectation is that they will play to the highest level and we get a quality performance.”

The All Blacks and USA have played each other three times, most recently at the 1991 Rugby World Cup in Gloucester when the All Blacks won 46-6.  The teams also played in 1980 in San Diego, California, and in 1913 in Berkeley, California.

The team is:

Starting XV

1. Joe Moody (5)
2. Nathan Harris (1)
3. Charlie Faumuina (23)
4. Jeremy Thrush (9)
5. Patrick Tuipulotu (4)
6. Victor Vito (24)
7. Sam Cane (20)
8. Kieran Read – captain (69)
9. TJ Perenara (7)
10. Aaron Cruden (35)
11. Charles Piutau (11)
12. Sonny Bill Williams (19)
13. Ryan Crotty (9)
14. Cory Jane (52)
15. Israel Dagg (44)

Reserves:

16. Keven Mealamu (120)
17. Wyatt Crockett (33)
18. Ben Franks (38)
19. Brodie Retallick (33)
20. Liam Messam (36)
21. Augustine Pulu *
22. Daniel Carter (100)
23. Julian Savea (29)