Starting centre Matt Proctor and flanker Dalton Papalii will make their All Black test debuts against Japan in Tokyo, with six of the eight reserves also in line to win their first caps.

They will inevitably be tagged as All Black second-stringers, but not all of the match-day 23 fall into that category and it will be a memorable occasion for all the newcomers, who include prop Tyrel Lomax, loose forwards Dillon Hunt and Gareth Evans, and backs Mitchell Drummond, Brett Cameron and George Bridge, all of whom have been named on the bench, but also starting hooker Dane Coles, who will make a welcome return from injury.

It will be Coles' first test since November last year and, after limited minutes over two games for Wellington recently, he will wear the No 2 jersey with the hope of lasting up to 50 minutes before giving way to Liam Coltman. Coles' return after his nightmare 18 months of concussion problems and a knee injury will be welcomed by the All Blacks coaches and also Codie Taylor, the incumbent who has borne the brunt of the workload in his absence.

No 8 Luke Whitelock has been named skipper.


There are returns too for outside backs Jordie Barrett, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Waisake Naholo, with Richie Mo'unga directing operations in the No 10 jersey, a clear sign that Damian McKenzie will start at fullback against England at Twickenham a week later.

[Japan test could be Nehe Milner-Skudder's last appearance in the All Blacks jersey]

The top-line All Blacks have already left for London in preparation for that highly-anticipated test but Mo'unga is a good chance to be named on the bench to play back-up to Beauden Barrett.

Auckland loose forward Papalii wasn't available for his triumphant team's Mitre 10 Cup semifinal or final and will hope to make the most of his opportunity against the Cherry Blossoms who are coached by former All Black blindside flanker Jamie Joseph.

Papalii, tall for a New Zealand No 7 at 1.93m, has been a standout this season with his powerful defending and ball-carrying and the All Blacks coaches will expect more of the same from him and the rest of the team which has a mobile look about it.

They will seek to play a high-impact but also high-tempo game, with Jackson Hemopo drafted into the second row alongside Patrick Tuipulotu due to the injury suffered by lock Luke Romano in last weekend's Mitre 10 Cup premiership final at Eden Park.

Dane Coles returns to the starting XV after a lengthy injury layoff. Photo / Getty
Dane Coles returns to the starting XV after a lengthy injury layoff. Photo / Getty

There is no lock cover on the bench, with Hunt and Evans likely to up the tempo in the second half if and when they get the opportunity. There is potential for blindside flanker Vaea Fifita to move to lock if necessary.

There should be as much interest in the performances of those more senior players who have slipped slightly in terms of their positions in Steve Hansen's top line-up, and they include right wing Milner-Skudder and left wing Naholo.


With Hansen showing a preference for McKenzie at fullback and Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane on the wings in big tests, the pair have a bit of ground to make up. Milner-Skudder has played only one test this year – against Argentina in Nelson – after his return from a shoulder problem, while Naholo has been injury free and hasn't done too much wrong.

Proctor will form a potentially high-impact unit in the midfield with fellow Hurricane Ngani Laumape. For Jordie Barrett, another Hurricane, the test is his first opportunity to put his high-profile quick throw-in mistake against the Boks in Wellington behind him.

Apart from the injured Romano, the other unlucky All Blacks are hooker Asafo Aumua, prop Reuben O'Neill, halfback Bryn Hall and fullback David Havili, a quartet who made the trip to Japan and trained but will not play.

All Blacks team to play Japan at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday, kick-off 6.45pm is:

(New caps in bold)

15. Jordie Barrett
14. Nehe Milner-Skudder
13. Matt Proctor
12. Ngani Laumape
11. Waisake Naholo
10. Richie Mo'unga
9. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
8. Luke Whitelock ©
7. Dalton Papalii
6. Vaea Fifita
5. Jackson Hemopo
4. Patrick Tuipulotu
3. Angus Ta'avao
2. Dane Coles
1. Ofa Tuungafasi

Reserves: Liam Coltman, Tim Perry, Tyrel Lomax, Dillon Hunt, Gareth Evans, Mitchell Drummond, Brett Cameron, George Bridge.