22 Jun 2017

Ioane and Crotty to start for All Blacks

6:09 am on 22 June 2017

Rieko Ioane and Ryan Crotty have been named to start for the All Blacks against the British and Irish Lions in the first Test at Eden Park on Saturday.

Blues and All Black wing Rieko Ioane

Blues and All Black wing Rieko Ioane Photo: Photosport

Ioane gets his first start in what will be his third Test for the All Blacks and starts on the left wing ahead of Julian Savea, while Ryan Crotty is at centre outside Sonny Bill Williams.

Captain Kieran Read starts at number eight with Ardie Savea moving to the bench.

Crotty returns from a rib injury with Anton Lienert-Brown moving to the bench.

Meanwhile Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga have been bracketed as first-five cover, with a decision to be made today.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said: "This was a really tough team to pick because there were a number of players in great form vying for positions. But in the end the three selectors felt this was the best combination to take on the Lions in the first Test.

Hansen added it was great to have Read and Crotty back.

"They've both been on target to return for this game all the way through, are both in great shape and, together with the rest of the squad, they're really excited at what's ahead of us.

"I'd also like to congratulate Rieko on getting his first start for the All Blacks. His outstanding form throughout the season this year, including against the Lions, has earned him his start on the wing."

Hansen said there was a massive amount of excitement within the team.

"There's a real understanding that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The players are well aware of the history of the All Blacks and the Lions and are determined to respect that history with their performances.

Ryan Crotty celebrates his try with team mates TJ Perenara and Ben Smith.

Ryan Crotty celebrates his try with team mates TJ Perenara and Ben Smith. Photo: Photosport

"We know this is a very good British and Irish Lions team; probably one of the best to have toured here. It'll be a battle of contrasting styles which makes it an intriguing Test to prepare for and to be part of. We know the importance of this match and we will bring real energy and intensity. It'll be a physical Test but, just as importantly, it will be a mental test.

"There will be a unique and electric atmosphere at Eden Park on Saturday night. It's something we're really looking forward to and we can't wait."

The matchday 23 for the first Test is (with Test caps in brackets):

1. Joe Moody (25)

2. Codie Taylor (16)

3. Owen Franks (91)

4. Brodie Retallick (61)

5. Samuel Whitelock (85)

6. Jerome Kaino (78)

7. Sam Cane (41)

8. Kieran Read (97) - Captain

9. Aaron Smith (59)

10. Beauden Barrett (50)

11. Rieko Ioane (2)

12. Sonny Bill Williams (34)

13. Ryan Crotty (26)

14. Israel Dagg (62)

15. Ben Smith (61)

16. Nathan Harris (5)

17. Wyatt Crockett (59)

18. Charlie Faumuina (47)

19. Scott Barrett (5)

20. Ardie Savea (13)

21. TJ Perenara (30)

22. Aaron Cruden (47) / Lima Sopoaga (7)

23. Anton Lienert-Brown (10)