Sevu Reece will make his New Zealand debut in the Rugby Championship clash against Argentina, while four further uncapped players have been named among the replacements by Steve Hansen.
Reece was a controversial selection in the All Blacks’ squad after he received a discharge without conviction for domestic assault last year.
Irish province Connacht pulled out of a move for Reece in the wake of his court appearance, but the wing was then signed by the Crusaders as injury cover and went on to excel as Super Rugby’s top try-scorer in 2019.
Reece is now set to start on the right wing in Buenos Aires on Saturday, with Jordie Barrett on the opposite flank.
Head coach Hansen was quoted by stuff.co.nz as saying: “As the season has gone on, he [Reece] has just got better and better as a player. And as a person. We got interested enough to say, ‘Hey, we need to keep looking at this guy’.
“And then it got past that point and we said, ‘Look, we are going to need to pick him’.
“Now we want to find out if he can take that next step. This game is the logical game to play him in.”
Sam Cane had already been confirmed as New Zealand’s stand-in skipper and Ardie Savea will start at number eight in the absence of Kieran Read, one of several Crusaders players rested for the Argentina fixture.
Atu Moli, Luke Jacobson, Josh Ioane and Braydon Ennor could join Reece in earning their first caps after being named on the bench.
The first All Blacks team of 2019 has been named. With five new caps named in the matchday 23, coach Steve Hansen gives an analysis on some of the selections.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) July 18, 2019
New Zealand team to face Argentina: Ben Smith, Sevu Reece, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Jordie Barrett, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Ofa Tuungafasi, Dane Coles, Angus Ta’avao, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Vaea Fifita, Sam Cane (captain), Ardie Savea.
Replacements: Liam Coltman, Atu Moli, Nepo Laulala, Jackson Hemopo, Luke Jacobson, Brad Weber, Josh Ioane, Braydon Ennor.
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