The scrum-half will lead the team in Dunedin

Aaron Smith captains All Blacks against Fiji

Aaron Smith was unveiled as the surprise choice to captain the All Blacks against Fiji in Dunedin on Saturday night. It’s the first time the Highlanders scrum-half will lead the side, on what will be his 98th match for them.

Lock Brodie Retallick will also make his first Test appearance in 18 months. And in the back-row, Ethan Blackadder moves up from the bench to start at seven, with Shannon Frizell at blindside and Hoskins Sotutu at No 8.

New Zealand coach Ian Foster said of the captaincy move: “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.’’

Meanwhile, Fiji have also named their team for the Test on New Zealand’s South Island, and a big match lies ahead for Smith’s opposite man. With veteran nine Frank Lomani and scrum-half Mosese Sorovi unable to travel, due to the Covid situation in Australia, Simione Kuruvoli gets a start at nine.

Fiji boss Vern Cotter said of this: “he has big shoes to fill but he has trained really well, speaks and connects well with Ben Volavola plus his got Kini Murimiruvalu at full-back who will also guide him.

“And Seta Tuicuvu will be covering substitute for fullback, first five and half-back. He is a talented player, he doesn’t talk much but he played very well at half-back during training and impressed us enough to be on the bench.”

All Blacks team to face Fiji 

Jordie Barrett; Sevu Reece, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, George Bridge; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith (captain); George Bower, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Patrick Tuipulotu, Brodie Retallick, Shannon Frizell, Ethan Blackaddder, Hoskins Sotutu.

Replacements: Dane Coles, Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax, Samuel Whitelock, Luke Jacobson, Finlay Christie, Damian McKenzie, Will Jordan.

Fiji team to face All Blacks

Kini Murimurivalu; Eroni Sau, Waisea Nayacalevu, Levani Botia (captain), Nemani Nadolo; Ben Volavola, Simione Kuruvoli; Peni Ravai, Samuel Matavesi, Mesake Doge, Temo Mayanavanua, Leone Nakarawa, Johnny Dyer, Mesulame Kunavula, Albert Tuisue.

Replacements: Peni Narisia, Haereiti Hetet, Leeroy Atalifo, Tevita Ratuva, Peceli Yato, Setareki Tuicuvu, Eneriko Buliruarua, Manasa Mataele.

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