WELLINGTON – All Blacks coach Ian Foster has settled early doubts on the debate over who will play flyhalf in his tenure with Richie Mo’unga named to start the first Bledisloe Cup test against Australia at Wellington Regional Stadium on Sunday.
Foster chose to stick with the dual-playmaker tactic introduced by his predecessor Steve Hansen two years ago, with two-times World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett starting at fullback.
Barrett’s selection in the number 15 jersey has necessitated a shift to right wing for his younger brother Jordie, who was arguably the best fullback in Super Rugby Aotearoa this season.
Loose forward Hoskins Sotutu, lock Tupou Vaa’i and winger Caleb Clarke will also make their test debuts from the bench.
“There were a number of positions that we wanted to keep an open mind about,” Foster said in a statement on Friday.
“We’re excited by the group. There’s a lot of talent in there and we’ve got players jumping out of their skin and wanting an opportunity.”
Rieko Ioane has been named at centre after he made the move in from the wing for the Auckland Blues and will link with Jack Goodhue in midfield.
Foster’s forward pack was largely predictable with Ardie Savea and Shannon Frizell joining captain Sam Cane in a confrontational and athletic loose forward trio.
The match will be the first rugby union test to be played in the world since the coronavirus-enforced shutdown in March and the first under Foster after he succeeded Hansen following last year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
“It’s a Bledisloe series and both teams will be determined to put a marker down,” Foster said.
“For us, it’s about getting our basics right and focussing on our set piece and momentum, and then letting the guys use their skill sets around the structure.”