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McCaw to start at No 8, new caps to debut

Published: 5:36AM Thursday October 31, 2013 Source: ONE Sport

The All Blacks have named two players to make their Test debuts in the starting XV to take on Japan in Tokyo this weekend.

Counties-Manukau and Blues wing Frank Halai has been selected in an All Blacks side for the first time, and massive Crusaders and Canterbury lock Dominic Bird will also making his debut at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

At 2.06m, Bird will become the tallest All Black on record when he takes the field, just shading former All Blacks lock Mark Cooksley.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen congratulated the new caps in the team ahead of the first official Test between the two countries outside of a Rugby World Cup.

"It will be a special day for them and their families," Hansen said.

"The three selectors have been very mindful of using this game to gather some more information on our younger players, but also using it to provide [Richie] McCaw and [Daniel] Carter with some game time," he said.

Bird pairs up with lock Jeremy Thrush in the second row.

In a notable move, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw will step in to number eight for the Test.

Wyatt Crockett, Dane Coles and Ben Franks are in the front row; which allows Sam Cane another start at seven and Stephen Luatua is at number six.

In the backs, Tawera Kerr-Barlow gets his first start in his 12th Test, while Carter returns from a shoulder injury to take his spot in the 10 jersey.

In the midfield, Francis Saili starts his second Test start at second five-eighth, inside Ben Smith, who gets another opportunity at centre.

Joining Halai in the back three are Charles Piutau on the right wing and Beauden Barrett at fullback.

Two other new All Blacks have also been named on the bench - Wellington and Hurricanes prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, and Canterbury and Crusaders loose forward Luke Whitelock.

Hansen said he expected Japan to be very competitive and sent his best wishes to Japanese coach Eddie Jones for a speedy recovery.

Starting XV:Wyatt Crockett, Dane Coles, Ben Franks, Jeremy Thrush, Dominic Bird, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane, Richie McCaw (captain), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Daniel Carter, Frank Halai, Francis Saili, Ben Smith, Charles Piutau, Beauden Barrett.

Reserves:Andrew Hore, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Charlie Faumuina, Brodie Retallick, Luke Whitelock, Aaron Smith, Tom Taylor, Ryan Crotty.