All Blacks name strongest team for opener

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has stayed true to his word and named the strongest possible team for their opening World Cup match against Argentina.

A vastly experienced side will begin New Zealand’s defence of the Webb Ellis Cup at Wembley on Sunday.

The starting 15 is the first from any nation to boast more than 1000 Test caps.

Captain Richie McCaw, playing his 143rd Test, will lead a starting side who have experienced 1012 internationals between them.

It sets the tone for a campaign which Hansen believes will be won on experience.

There is one starting change from the side who won their most recent Test, the 41-13 thumping of Australia in Auckland.

Sixty-Test flanker Jerome Kaino returns from injury in place of Victor Vito.

Kaino will also be charged with covering lock, with Hansen naming two loose forwards on his reserve bench – Vito and Sam Cane – suggesting he is targeting the breakdown as a crucial element of the tournament.

Eleven of the 23-strong team will experience their first World Cup game, including an exciting-looking back three comprising Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Julian Savea.

Six of the starting forward pack began the 2011 final, an 8-7 win over France at Eden Park.

“There’s real excitement, enthusiasm and hunger in the group,” Hansen said.

“We’ve selected what we believe is a very strong team. We have the utmost respect for Argentina who we know a lot more about now because of their involvement in The Rugby Championship. But it also means they know a lot more about us.”

“We’ve had a great preparation and there will be no excuses for not performing on Sunday.”


Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Sonny Bill Williams, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Sam Cane, Victor Vito, Charlie Faumuina, Wyatt Crockett, Keven Mealamu.

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