Richie Mo'unga returns at fly-half for New Zealand against South Africa

Richie Mo'unga has played 12 Tests for New Zealand
Richie Mo'unga has played 12 Tests for New Zealand
©Steve Haag

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has named a strong matchday line-up for the Rugby World Cup opener against South Africa to be played in Yokohama on Saturday.

Richie Mo’unga returns at fly-half with Beauden Barrett slotted at fullback pushing Ben Smith to the bench. Sevu Reece and George Bridge take positions at right and left wings respectively.

Anton Lienert-Brown and Ryan Crotty form centre partnership with Nepo Laulala and Joe Moody at props and Dane Coles at hooker. Sam Whitelock and Scot Barrett are positioned at second row with skipper Kieran Read, Sam Cane and Ardie Savea forming back row.

“Since transferring from our camp in Kashiwa to Tokyo we have moved into Test match mode this week and our focus has been building throughout the week," said Hansen.

"We’ve had a very good week’s training in the heat and rain here in Tokyo, the facilities have been excellent and our Japanese hosts have been outstanding.

“The challenge of playing one of our oldest and most respected foes in the opening Test of Rugby World Cup 2019 has us excited and energised by what lies ahead. Each time we play South Africa, it’s a tight battle and a real arm wrestle.

“To perform at our very best, we’ll have to play with real clarity, intent, energy and clear heads. Both teams will have their moments and it’ll be our job to ensure we limit theirs and take full opportunity of ours.”

New Zealand starting line-up: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Ardie Savea, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody

Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Sonny Bill Williams, 23 Ben Smith


2019 Rugby World Cup Points Table