Perofeta, Tuivasa-Sheck to start for NZ

Full-back Stephen Perofeta and center Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will begin a test for the first time when the All Blacks face Japan in Tokyo on Saturday in the opening of their Northern Hemisphere tour.

Perofeta has measured his All Blacks career so far in seconds: he played less than a minute as a substitute in the New Zealand rugby championship test against Argentina in Christchurch in August.

The talented utility Blues, who also plays as a forerunner, received his first assignment in a somewhat impromptu All Blacks lineup due to the absence of injured or unavailable players.

Former NRL star Tuivasa-Sheck has been named in a new midfield combo with Braydon Ennor for his third test and first start. Ennor is also returning to the starting line-up of New Zealand and will play his sixth test on Saturday.

Manager Ian Foster found the midfielder’s resources strained in the absence of Rieko Ioane who left New Zealand late due to an ear infection.

With Quinn Tupaea out for the season, Jordie Barrett unavailable and David Havili recovering from a head injury on the bench, Foster had to improvise.

The larger selection was difficult due to the absence of several players. The Barrett brothers, Jordie, Beauden and Scott, have been delayed in New Zealand due to a family bereavement.

The unavailability of the lock Scott Barrett and veteran Sam Whitelock, who also has an ear infection, left Foster with only three players in form at number 2.

Brodie Retallick will join there on Saturday with Tupou Vaa’i as Patrick Tuipulotu was benched for his first test since returning from Japan.

Finlay Christie will make his second test start as scrum-half in combination with flying half-back Richie Mo’unga.

Sam Cane returns to the captain role after his recent head injury and veteran Dane Coles will start as the hooker between props Nepo Laulala and George Bower.

The All Blacks’ strong bench includes hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho, scrum-half Aaron Smith, Havili and center Anton Lienert-Brown who could make his first appearance of the year after recovering from shoulder surgery.

Foster is hoping to see the All Blacks continue to perform on Saturday after defending the rugby league.

After the Japan Test, New Zealand will face Wales (5 November), Scotland (13 November) and England (19 November).

“This tour in the north is going to be huge,” Foster said. “We have four incredibly difficult tests ahead of us and this one against Japan will give us some serious questions.

“We want to show that we are ready to react. We want to show that we have done the necessary work to further improve our game after the rugby championship ”.

New Zealand: Stephen Perofeta, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Caleb Clarke, Richie Mo’unga, Finlay Christie; Hoskins Sotutu, Sam Cane (captain), Shannon Frizell, Tupou Vaa’i, Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Dane Coles, George Bower. Reserves: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Tyrel Lomax, Patrick Tuipulotu, Dalton Papali’i, Aaron Smith, David Havili, Anton Lienert-Brown.

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