Rugby: Aaron Smith to captain All Blacks against Fiji; Beauden Barrett and Brodie Retallick to start

Beauden Barrett and Aaron Smith will once again pair up in the playmaking roles, named to start for the All Blacks against Fiji in Dunedin this weekend.

The pair are among several changes to the team that put 102 points on Tonga last weekend, with Brodie Retallick, Shannon Frizell, David Havili and Hoskins Sotutu among the other inclusions in the starting squad.

Retallick will be making his first appearance since the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Rookies George Bower (prop) and Ethan Blackadder (flanker) have both been given their first start after coming from the bench last weekend, while prop Ethan de Groot is in line to make his All Blacks debut from the bench.

Of the players named in the starting 15, only two featured in that of a week ago – centre Rieko Ioane and winger George Bridge. Dane Coles, Samuel Whitelock, Luke Jacobson, Damian McKenzie and Will Jordan were all named in the starting side a week ago, but will make their impact from the bench this weekend.

Aaron Smith will captain the side for the first time, in his 98th test.

“Aaron is a special player with real mana and a natural leader and his preparation is second to none. I’m sure he, his wife Teagan and his wider whānau will be proud of what he has achieved,” All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said.

On this weekend’s test, Foster added: “The Fijian team will bring a very different challenge from Tonga. They are a more established side made up of primarily overseas-based players, who are amongst some of the better players in Europe.

The matchday 23 is (Test caps in brackets. New Test caps in bold):

1 George Bower (1)
2 Codie Taylor (56)
3 Nepo Laulala (29)
4 Patrick Tuipulotu (37)
5 Brodie Retallick (81)
6 Shannon Frizell (13)
7 Ethan Blackadder (1)
8 Hoskins Sotutu (5)
9 Aaron Smith (97) – captain
10 Beauden Barrett (89)
11 George Bridge (11)
12 David Havili (3)
13 Rieko Ioane (35)
14 Sevu Reece (8)
15 Jordie Barrett (24)

16 Dane Coles (75)
17 Ethan de Groot – new cap
18 Tyrel Lomax (7)
19 Samuel Whitelock (123)
20 Luke Jacobson (3)
21 Finlay Christie (1)
22 Damian McKenzie (28)
23 Will Jordan (3)

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