Smith to lead All Blacks against Samoa

Highlanders full-back has been named as the All Blacks' captain for their against Samoa in Auckland on Friday.

Smith, the All Blacks vice-captain, will lead the team in his 61st Test and will be the 68th player to captain New Zealand's national side in a Test.

The All Blacks team includes Hurricanes duo Jordie Barrett and Vaea Fifita, who set to make their Test debuts from the bench.

Meanwhile, it will be a milestone match for Beauden Barrett, with the fly-half to run out in his 50th Test. 

The matchday 23 also sees the return of midfielder Sonny Bill Williams in his first game back since the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham. Hooker Nathan Harris also makes a long-awaited return to Test rugby after being injured last August.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said: “We’d like to congratulate everyone who has been selected for this Test, particularly ‘Benda’ (Ben Smith), who will captain the side for the first time. 

He’s been our Vice-Captain for a few years now and captain of the Highlanders, where he’s been doing a fantastic job, so was the logical choice. He leads by example and is an inspiration to his teammates.

“It’s also going to be a big night for Jordie and Vaea as they’re both likely to play a part on the night. They’ve both been in great form and we’re looking forward to seeing what they can do at this level.

“Whilst we asked for this game to help us prepare for the Lions series, once it became a reality, it then took on its own importance — this is a Test match against a quality and very capable opponent.

"Samoa is about to kick off the qualifying stage of their Rugby World Cup campaign, so this will make them even more dangerous. The Samoans are always a challenge and will play with a high level of physicality and skill. At the very minimum, we will need to match that.

“This first week has been about bringing together the players from the five different Super clubs and reintroducing them to the All Blacks way. We’ve had a good week and are really looking forward to this match.

“It’s going to be a unique night with two Tests being played at the same venue featuring four teams that are well known to New Zealand fans. It’s a night that shouldn’t be missed, as I’m picking there will be a lot of great rugby played so get on down there and show your support.”

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody 
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Vaea Fifita, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Jordie Barrett

Date: Friday, June 16
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-Off: 20:00 local (08:00 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)

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