The All Blacks are sticking with their dual playmaker approach for their 2019 Rugby World Cup opener against the Springboks in Yokohama.

Beauden Barrett will start at fullback with Richie Mo'unga at first-five for the much-anticipated clash on Saturday night, in what many believe could be a rehearsal for the final on November 2.

Several other tricky selections in the backline saw Anton Lienert-Brown and Ryan Crotty earn the nod as the starting midfielders, with Sonny Bill Williams on the bench, while Sevu Reece and George Bridge will start on the wings, with Ben Smith a utility option from the reserves.

Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga will start as dual playmakers for the All Blacks. Photo / Photosport
Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga will start as dual playmakers for the All Blacks. Photo / Photosport

Other selections of interest are Ardie Savea and Sam Cane starting alongside Kieran Read in the loose forwards, while Scott Barrett edged out Patrick Tuipulotu to start at lock.


Shannon Frizell earns a spot on the bench despite only being a late call-up for the injured Luke Jacobson, while Ofa Tuungafasi and Angus Ta'avao back up Joe Moody and Nepo Laulala as the All Blacks' propping options.

Ever since South Africa were dealt a humiliating 57-0 thrashing in North Harbour in September 2017, the two sides have been almost impossible to separate. The All Blacks claimed a 25-24 victory in Cape Town a month after that thumping before South Africa hit back with a 36-34 triumph in Wellington last September.

A 32-30 All Blacks victory followed a month later, and the last game was the closest of the lot — a 16-all draw in July. 22 of South Africa's players from that clash in July are also playing in Saturday's opener, after they named an unchanged side yesterday.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: "Any combination of players in our squad could have justified their selection. But in the end we believe the 23 we have selected is the right group for this opposition."

"In today's rugby environment, you need to have the mindset that it's not just about who starts, it's also about what the players coming off the bench can provide. As an example, we have a great one-two punch with Dane and Codie at hooker and Aaron and TJ at halfback."

Hansen said the All Blacks have had a fantastic build-up in Japan since arriving ten days ago and there was a keen sense of excitement and anticipation ahead of the Rugby World Cup-opening Test.

"Since transferring from our camp in Kashiwa to Tokyo we have moved into Test match mode this week and our focus has been building throughout the week. We've had a very good week's training in the heat and rain here in Tokyo, the facilities have been excellent and our Japanese hosts have been outstanding."

Hansen added: "The challenge of playing one of our oldest and most respected foes in the opening test of the Cup has us excited and energised by what lies ahead. Each time we play South Africa, it's a tight battle and a real arm wrestle.


"To perform at our very best, we'll have to play with real clarity, intent, energy and clear heads. Both teams will have their moments and it'll be our job to ensure we limit theirs and take full opportunity of ours."

Hansen said it was the perfect test match to open the All Blacks' Rugby World Cup campaign.

"This is where we want to be and we're all looking forward to the challenge."

All Blacks team to face the Springboks:

15. Beauden Barrett, 14. Sevu Reece, 13. Anton Lienert-Brown, 12. Ryan Crotty, 11. George Bridge, 10. Richie Mo'unga, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. Kieran Read (c), 7. Sam Cane, 6. Ardie Savea, 5. Sam Whitelock, 4. Scott Barrett, 3. Nepo Laulala, 2. Dane Coles, 1. Joe Moody.


16. Codie Taylor, 17. Ofa Tuungafasi, 18. Angus Ta'avao, 19. Patrick Tuipulotu, 20. Shannon Frizell, 21. TJ Perenara, 22. Sonny Bill Williams, 23. Ben Smith.

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