PARIS (Reuters) - Winger Rieko Ioane has recovered from a bout of mumps, while Vaea Fifita will start at blindside flanker for the All Blacks as they face France in the first test of their end-of-season tour in Paris on Saturday.
Ioane had been under a cloud after picking up mumps and kept in isolation from the rest of the team last week in London as they prepared for their clash with the invitational Barbarians side.
Fifita, who played against the Barbarians, will make his third test start after Liam Squire picked up an illness while Jerome Kaino sustained a knee injury in the 31-22 win over the Barbarians and will head back to New Zealand after the test.
“It’s another opportunity for him to display his wares, be the player he can, and learn from the last games,” coach Steve Hansen told reporters in Paris of Fifita’s selection.
“He’s still in that learning phase, and we’ll see how far he’s come in a short time.
“He’s getting more physical, he’s a good lineout forward, his defence against the Baabaas was pretty good, and he’s coming along nicely.
“He’s not the finished product but he’s very talented, and if we get him to where we think we can he’s going to be fairly handy.”
The All Blacks lost their last test to Australia last month in Brisbane, and Hansen made only two further changes by recalling flyhalf Beauden Barrett and naming lock Luke Romano to start alongside Sam Whitelock in the scrum’s engine room.
Romano replaces Scott Barrett from the starting side that lost 23-18 to the Wallabies at Lang Park.
Team: 15-Damian McKenzie, 14-Waisake Naholo, 13-Ryan Crotty, 12-Sonny Bill Williams, 11-Rieko Ioane, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read (captain), 7-Sam Cane, 6-Vaea Fifita, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Luke Romano, 3-Nepo Laulala, 2-Dane Coles, 1-Kane Hames
Replacements: 16-Codie Taylor, 17-Wyatt Crockett, 18-Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19-Scott Barrett, 20-Matt Todd, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Lima Sopoaga, 23-Anton Lienert-Brown
Writing by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty