July 18, 2019 / 5:47 AM / a month ago

Rugby-Reece to start for under-strength All Blacks against Pumas

BUENOS AIRES, July 18 (Reuters) - Uncapped winger Sevu Reece has been named to start on the right wing for an experimental All Blacks side in their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday.

Reece is the only uncapped player in the starting side but four others — prop Atu Moli, loose forward Luke Jacobson, flyhalf Josh Ioane and outside back Braydon Ennor — should make their test debuts from the bench.

The 22-year-old Fiji-born Reece forced his way into the All Blacks after strong Super Rugby form for the Canterbury Crusaders, who resurrected his professional career after he had a contract in Ireland torn up last year.

He had been fined NZ$750 ($505) and discharged without conviction for an assault on his girlfriend last year.

His selection for the All Blacks was condemned by anti-violence campaigners but Hansen defended the winger’s inclusion, arguing he deserved a second chance after he had demonstrated contrition and not repeated the behaviour.

Hansen left several of Reece’s Crusaders team mates back in New Zealand to prepare for their clash against the Springboks in Wellington on July 27.

His team for the Pumas game showed a desire to experiment ahead of the World Cup.

Fullback Jordie Barrett will play on the left wing, with Ofa Tuungafasi, who started his career as a loosehead prop before the All Blacks turned him into a tighthead, back in the number one jersey.

Moli, who can similarly play both sides of the scrum, should earn his first test off the bench as a loosehead prop.

Scrumhalf Brad Weber, whose only test was off the bench against Samoa four years ago, is likely to earn his second cap as a replacement on Saturday.

Inside centre Ngani Laumape also gets his chance to prove himself in a congested midfield selection for the global tournament, with Sonny Bill Williams still nursing a hamstring injury.

“It’s going to be exciting to watch how the new All Blacks perform along with their more experienced team mates,” Hansen said in a statement.

“We have the utmost respect for Argentina. We know that we’ll be facing a confident, physical side.

“They will see this game as a massive opportunity to make a statement and it will be our job to make a statement of our own.”

New Zealand: 15-Ben Smith, 14-Sevu Reece, 13-Anton Lienert-Brown, 12-Ngani Laumape, 11-Jordie Barrett, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Ardie Savea, 7-Sam Cane (captain), 6-Vaea Fifita, 5-Patrick Tuipulotu, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Angus Ta’avao, 2-Dane Coles, 1-Ofa Tuungafasi

Replacements: 16-Liam Coltman, 17-Atu Moli, 18-Nepo Laulala, 19-Jackson Hemopo, 20-Luke Jacobson, 21-Brad Weber, 22-Josh Ioane, 23-Braydon Ennor.

$1 = 1.4837 New Zealand dollars Writing by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ian Ransom

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