[Source: Rugby World Cup]
New Zealand see Italy as a genuine threat in Friday’s key World Cup Pool A clash and will wait until after the match to celebrate Sam Whitelock becoming the most-capped All Black, coach Ian Foster said.
The All Blacks have never lost to Italy, often running up big scores in their previous meetings, but Foster said his team were extremely wary of the new-look Italian side.
Foster was able to name Sam Cane, Shannon Frizell, Tyrel Lomax and Jordie Barrett in his matchday squad on their return from injury, while Whitelock is set to win a record 149th cap off the bench.
Frizell and Barrett will line up in the starting team at blindside flanker and inside centre for their first appearances of the tournament, while regular captain Cane and prop Lomax were named among the replacements.
Ardie Savea will captain the side from number eight, while Dalton Papali’i will start at openside flanker as Cane is eased into action after being a late withdrawal from the opening loss to France with a back problem.
Frizell, who played throughout the Rugby Championship triumph before a hamstring injury, is perhaps the most welcome return after Foster struggled to replace him.
Cam Roigard earned a spot on the bench as backup to scrumhalf Aaron Smith after a brilliant performance in New Zealand’s 71-3 win over Namibia in the second pool game.
Loosehead Ethan de Groot misses out after being shown a red card in that match and being banned for two matches with Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Nepo Laulala the starting props.
Fleet-footed back Damian McKenzie also starts on the bench, offering the exciting prospect of him linking up with the similarly pacy Beauden Barrett and Will Jordan late in the game.
Lock Whitelock will surpass former captain Richie McCaw as the most-capped All Black if he comes off the bench to replace one of the starting second-row duo, Brodie Retallick and Scott Barrett.