All Blacks big guns return for Fiji Test rematch

All Blacks aces Ardie Savea and Anton Lienert-Brown will make their first Test appearances of 2021 in Saturday’s rematch with Fiji in Hamilton.

Loose forward Savea and centre Lienert-Brown have been recovering from knee and elbow injuries respectively and will boost a side that struggled for much of the first Test against Fiji before kicking away late to win 57-23.

It will also be the 50th Test match for both players.

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“To play 50 games for the All Blacks is pretty special and it’s also special that they get to do it together,” All Blacks coach Ian Foster said.

“Both are really influential players, they’re excited and will have some proud families coming along to watch.”

Pressure is building on Foster who has had an underwhelming start to his tenure and is off contract at the end of the year.

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He has signalled that Richie Mo’unga remains his first choice five-eighth after recalling the Crusaders star in place of last week’s No.10 Beauden Barrett, who drops to the bench.

Other interesting selections are David Havili starting ahead of Rieko Ioane in midfield, Scott Barrett edging Brodie Retallick at lock, Damian McKenzie picked ahead of Jordie Barrett at fullback and Luke Jacobson and Akira Ioane getting the nod in a highly competitive loose forward mix.

“It was the second Test of the year for us last weekend and we were pretty happy with our performance,” Foster said.

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“There were a lot of views about our performance and that’s the beauty of being in this team: people expect perfection.

“We took some really good steps up from the week before (against Tonga) and we were satisfied with our performance, but it did highlight some areas we need to keep growing.

“This Steinlager Series campaign has been about growing our game and making sure we have players that are ready to go for what will be a long season.”

ALL BLACKS (15-1): Damian McKenzie, Will Jordan, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, Sevu Reece, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith, Luke Jacobson, Ardie Savea, Akira Ioane, Sam Whitelock (c), Scott Barrett, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, George Bower

Reserves: Dane Coles, Ethan de Groot, Angus Ta’avao, Brodie Retallick, Shannon Frizell, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane

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