Hoeata to debut, Williams returns for NZ

by RUGBY.com.au staff

Lock Jarrad Hoeata has been named to make his Test rugby debut and will partner the returning Ali Williams for New Zealand's one-off Test against Fiji in Dunedin on Friday night.

Included in the All Blacks' Tri-Nations squad after impressing for the Highlanders in this year's Super 15 competition, Hoeata will partner 61-Test veteran Williams in the second row for the first time.

A series of injuries have prevented Williams playing at Test level since late 2008.

Others returning to the All Blacks Test team for the first time since 2009 are Crusaders prop Wyatt Crockett and Highlanders winger Ben Smith.

The team will be captained by flanker Richie McCaw while his Crusaders teammate Dan Carter has been named on the reserves bench, with Colin Slade starting the match at five-eighth.

It will be Slade's first run-on start in his second Test.

All Blacks midfield backs Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith will play their 27th Test together, just one test behind the record held by the partnership of Walter Little and Frank Bunce.

Cory Jane, who dislocated a finger in a provincial match last weekend, was ruled out of contention, while other injured players not considered include Richard Kahui, Tony Woodcock, Isaia Toeava, Hosea Gear and Israel Dagg.

All Blacks coach Graham Henry emphasised his side would not take the Test lightly because it was their only outing ahead of the Tri-Nations series against South Africa and Australia.

"This is an important test for us as we kick off this year's Test season," Henry said.

"We have got some real competition for places and it's exciting for those players picked and they will be keen to put their best foot forward."

While there are several new combinations in the All Blacks team, Henry said they would not be taking the Fijians lightly.

"They were competitive in the recent Pacific Nations Cup and will bring their unique style so we will have to be clinical in the way we play," he said.

"You just needto look at how Fiji's Pacific neighbours Samoa played against Australia on the weekend to know that if we underestimate Fiji, we do so at our peril."

New Zealand: Mils Muliaina, Zac Guildford, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Colin Slade, Jimmy Cowan, Liam Messam, Richie McCaw (capt), Adam Thomson, Ali Williams, Jarrad Hoeata, Ben Franks, Andrew Hore, Wyatt Crockett.

Res: Corey Flynn, John Afoa, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Piri Weepu, Dan Carter, Ben Smith.