New Zealand names young team to face Italy

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) Flanker Sam Cane will captain a youthful New Zealand team in Saturday's rugby test against Italy at Rome's Stadio Olympico.

Cane has led New Zealand only once before – against Namibia at last year's Rugby World Cup. He will captain a team which has an average age of 25 and an average of 22 test caps.

Hooker Liam Coltman and utility back Reiko Ioane have been named in an All Blacks matchday lineup for the first time while lock Scott Barrett and fullback Damian McKenzie will play their second tests.

New Zealand are attempting to bounce back from last weekend's 40-29 loss to Ireland – their first loss to the Irish in 111 years and their first test defeat in 19 matches.

Barrett, who scored a try in an impressive debut off the bench against Ireland, has been retained and will partner Patrick Tuipulotu in the second row while lock Brodie Retallick will make his return from injury on the bench.

Stephen Luatua will start at No. 8 in his 15th test and his first since 2014.

Scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow will start a test for only the second time while Malakai Fekitoa and Anton Lienert-Brown will combine in midfield where New Zealand are limited by injuries to Ryan Crotty and George Moala. Lienert-Brown moves from outside to inside center.

Aaron Cruden returns at flyhalf in place of Beauden Barrett.

In total there are 12 changes to the starting lineup that took the field against Ireland in Chicago.

''Whilst we have made a number of changes, as we indicated, we will be looking for a massive improvement in our performance from last weekend,'' head coach Steve Hansen said. ''Italy will bring their own unique flavor to the game.

''They have a big, strong forward pack and some really exciting backs. They will look to drive their maul and be as disruptive as possible. Therefore, we will have to be clinical and effective in all aspects of our game, starting with our set piece. We are also expecting to see an improvement in our kicking game.''

New Zealand has beaten Italy in all 12 of their test meetings to date.


New Zealand: Damian McKenzie, Israel Dagg, Malakai Fekitoa, Anton Lienert-Brown, Waisake Naholo, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Stephen Luatua, Sam Cane (captain), Elliot Dixon, Scott Barrett, Patrick Tuipulotu, Charlie Faumuina, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett.

Reserves: Liam Coltman, Joe Moody, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Brodie Retallick, Matt Todd, Aaron Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Rieko Ioane.