All Blacks name young team to face Italy
ROME (AP) — Flanker Sam Cane will captain a youthful All Blacks team against Italy at Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
Cane has led New Zealand only once before, against Namibia at last year's Rugby World Cup. He will captain a team which has an average age of 25, an average of 22 test caps, and which includes two players who are likely to make test debuts from the reserves.
Hooker Liam Coltman and utility back Rieko Ioane were named in an All Blacks matchday lineup on Thursday for the first time, while lock Scott Barrett and fullback Damian McKenzie will play their second tests, and make their first test starts.
Only three players who started against Ireland in Chicago last weekend - Cane, lock Patrick Tuipulotu, and winger Waisake Naholo - will start against Italy. Former world player of the year Brodie Retallick, recovered from concussion, was in the reserves.
"There were always going to be changes," coach Steve Hansen said. "It's that time of year where if we don't make changes we were going to run out of petrol. It's an opportunity for some people to tell us what they've got at this level."
Four of the team featured for New Zealand Maori in their 54-7 win over the United States in Chicago last week: Flanker Elliot Dixon, scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow, McKenzie, and Ioane.
The All Blacks are attempting to bounce back from losing to Ireland 40-29, their first loss to the Irish in 111 years and their first test loss in 19 matches. They have never lost to Italy.
New Zealand: Damian McKenzie, Israel Dagg, Malakai Fekitoa, Anton Lienert-Brown, Waisake Naholo, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow; Steven Luatua, Sam Cane (captain), Elliot Dixon, Scott Barrett, Patrick Tuipulotu, Charlie Faumuina, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Liam Coltman, Joe Moody, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Brodie Retallick, Matt Todd, Aaron Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Rieko Ioane.