Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Hansen hands Saili All Blacks debut

Steve Hansen, pictured, has handed the number 12 jersey to Francis Saili

Auckland Blues inside centre Francis Saili will become the 17th new All Black in coach Steve Hansen's reign when he makes his debut against Argentina in Hamilton on Saturday.

The 22-year-old, a member of the Junior World Championship-winning New Zealand Under-20 team in 2011, has been part of the squad all season and will line up alongside star fly-half Dan Carter for the game.

Hansen said with regular number 12 Ma'a Nonu suffering ongoing ankle niggles, the game was a chance to rest him and bring Saili into Test rugby.

"We have complete faith in his ability to do the job. He is a very exciting, young player who has a multi-talented skillset that should suit Test rugby," he said.

Hansen said it was pleasing to have fly-halves Carter and Beauden Barrett back from injury.

"We are expecting a very physical encounter but also one that will see them use the flair and talent of their back line," he said.

"It is a challenge that we are looking forward to and we are also looking forward to playing in Hamilton."

Saili's Blues team-mate Charlie Faumuina replaces the injured Owen Franks at tighthead prop, with Ben Franks coming into the reserves.

New Zealand team: Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Francis Saili, Julian Savea; Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith; Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Charlie Faumuina, Brodie Retallick, Samuel Whitelock, Steven Luatua, Richie McCaw (capt), Kieran Read.

Replacements: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Jeremy Thrush, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Charles Piutau.

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