Fi­fita’s big chance to im­press

Fiji Sun - - Sport - Paris: All Blacks: Bench: -Planet Rugby

The hulk­ing mass of ath­leti­cism that is Vaea Fi­fita has been handed the big­gest op­por­tu­nity of his young test rugby ca­reer to show that New Ply­mouth’s high­light reel break­out was less a flash in the pan and more a har­bin­ger of what’s to come.

The All Blacks are bank­ing on the lat­ter by nam­ing him to start on the blind­side flank in the first test of their north­ern tour against France on Sun­day.

“It’s a big test for him,” said coach Steve Hansen, no doubt ea­ger to see how the 1.96m, 25-year-old Welling­to­nian copes in the caul­dron of nearly 82,000 fans at the Stade de France.

Fi­fita is the no­table se­lec­tion in an All Blacks start­ing XV con­tain­ing three changes to that which ran out for the 23-18 Bledis­loe de­feat in Bris­bane, though the re­al­ity is he gets there by de­fault.

Liam Squire missed Tues­day train­ing through ill­ness and wasn’t con­sid­ered, and Jerome Kaino will head back to New Zealand post-test af­ter suf­fer­ing a pos­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in­jury.

The other two changes to the start­ing group from Bris­bane sees Beau­den Bar­rett re­turn at No 10 and hard-nosed Cantab Luke Romano re­place Scott Bar­rett in the sec­ond row. Bar­rett drops to the bench, as does Lima Sopoaga, and they are joined there by open­side flanker Matt Todd who has again nudged Ardie Savea out of the backup spot, but will be hop­ing this time he can see it through. In Bris­bane he was a late with­drawal with a groin strain.

Damian McKen­zie, Waisake Na­holo, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Wil­liams, Rieko Ioane, Beau­den Bar­rett, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (capt), Sam Cane, Vaea Fi­fita, Sam White­lock, Luke Romano, Nepo Laulala, Dane Coles, Kane Hames.

Codie Tay­lor, Wy­att Crock­ett, Ofa Tu’un­gafasi, Scott Bar­rett, Matt Todd, TJ Per­e­nara, Lima Sopoaga, An­ton LienertBrown.

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