New Zealand name eight debutants for Japan clash

Steve Hansen has named an inexperienced matchday squad for game against Japan
Steve Hansen has named an inexperienced matchday squad for game against Japan

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has named a total of eight debutants in the matchday 23 squad that will face Japan on Saturday in Tokyo.

With Hansen announcing that a set of senior players will be leaving Japan early for their preparation for the European tour, the match against Japan gives the New Zealand coach an opportunity to look at the fringe players with the World Cup round the corner.

Loose forward Dalton Papalii and midfielder Matt Proctor has been named in the starting line-up while Tyrel Lomax, loose forwards Gareth Evans and Dillon Hunt, Mitch Drummond, Brett Cameron and George Bridge are set to make their debut from the bench.

Meanwhile, Luke Whitelock, who captained the side in the game against France XV will lead the All Blacks for the first time in a Test game this weekend.

“Firstly, on behalf of the entire All Blacks squad, we want to congratulate those players who’ll be making their Test debuts," said Hansen.

"It’s an exciting and special time for those players and their families, as well as their teammates who join them in recognising their achievement.

“We also congratulate Luke on becoming the latest All Blacks Test captain. He’s a natural leader, did a fantastic job leading the team against the French XV last year, and will be ably assisted by the senior players in the team.

“The team’s really excited at what lies ahead. While this is a relatively inexperienced group, the expectation is that when you pull on the black jersey, then a top performance is required.

"It’s important that the players embrace the expectation and enjoy it.

“They’ve prepared well this week and will bring an unbridled enthusiasm that comes with that excitement.

"We know they’ll go out on Saturday and proudly represent the jersey, themselves, their families and their country.”

New Zealand line up to face Japan: Ofa Tuungafasi, Dane Coles, Angus Ta'avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jackson Hemopo, Vaea Fifita, Dalton Papalii *,Luke Whitelock, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Richie Mo'unga, Waisake Naholo, Ngani Laumape, Matt Proctor *, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Jordie Barrett

Replacements: Liam Coltman, Tim Perry, Tyrel Lomax *, Dillon Hunt *, Gareth Evans *, Mitch Drummond *, Brett Cameron *, George Bridge *

*indicates debut

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All Blacks Squad