Cruden starts for All Blacks against Wales

Aaron Cruden has been named to start for the All Blacks

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has named his team to play Wales in the first of three Tests with Aaron Cruden starting in the number 10 jersey.

The All Blacks matchday 23 features an experienced core of senior players and new talent, with 720 caps in the squad, and an average of 31 caps per player.

The team will be captained by Kieran Read who will be playing in his 85th Test and this will be the tenth time that will be captaining the side.

Cruden comes into the side replacing Dan Carter but already has a wealth of experience and has scored 280 points for the All Blacks and is fifth on the all-time All Blacks points-scoring list, 11 points behind Carlos Spencer.

The back three are Julian Savea, Waisake Naholo and Ben Smith. Savea has scored 190 Test points (38 tries) so is close to hitting 200, while fullback Ben Smith is on the cusp of scoring 100 points. He has scored 19 tries (95 points).

One other key feature of the squad is the naming of two new players, loose forward Ardie Savea and midfielder Seta Tamanivalu, who could make their All Blacks Test debuts off the bench.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “Whilst the opposition might believe that we’re vulnerable because it’s our first Test and we have lost some experienced players, we don’t have that mindset.”

“We have some very excited players who have trained well during the week and are getting the opportunity to make a statement about who they are and what the All Blacks jersey means to them,” he added.

“We’re well aware that this is a good Welsh team and not one that we’ll underestimate and we’re looking forward to the challenge that comes with playing Test match football, which involves high-pressure moments and huge physicality.

“On a personal note, we would also like to congratulate Alun Wyn Jones who looks set to play his 100th Test this weekend. It’s a fantastic achievement.” ,

Despite a rich and long history stretching back 110 years, the All Blacks and Wales have played each other only 30 Times, with 27 victories to New Zealand and three wins to Wales, the most recent in 1953.

The two teams have met just two times at Eden Park, in 1988 and 1969.

New Zeland

1. Joe Moody , 2. Dane Coles , 3. Owen Franks , 4. Luke Romano , 5. Brodie Retallick , 6. Jerome Kaino , 7. Sam Cane , 8. Kieran Read (c), 9. Aaron Smith , 10. Aaron Cruden , 11. Julian Savea , 12. Ryan Crotty , 13. Malakai Fekitoa , 14. Waisake Naholo , 15. Ben Smith

Replacements : 16. Nathan Harris , 17. Wyatt Crockett , 18. Charlie Faumuina , 19. Patrick Tuipulotu , 20. Ardie Savea, 21. TJ Perenara , 22. Beauden Barrett , 23. Seta Tamanivalu

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