All Blacks Savea, Lienert-Brown return for Fiji clash

Ardie Savea of New Zealand looks
Ardie Savea of New Zealand looks
Image: Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

July 15 (Reuters) - All Blacks loose forward Ardie Savea and centre Anton Lienert-Brown have been rushed into the starting side for the second Test against Fiji in Hamilton on Sunday after recovering from injuries.

Savea will start at openside flanker, with Lienert-Brown pairing with inside centre David Havili for the match at Waikato Stadium.

Flyhalf Richie Mo'unga has been given the number 10 shirt, with Beauden Barrett to start on the bench.

Lock Sam Whitelock returns to captain the side, starting alongside Scott Barrett in the second row, with Brodie Retallick dropping to the bench.

The All Blacks beat Fiji 57-23 in the first match in Dunedin last Saturday.

The team is: 15-Damien McKenzie, 14-Will Jordan, 13-Anton Lienert-Brown, 12-David Havili, 11-Sevu Reece, 10-Richie Mo'unga, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Luke Jacobson, 7-Ardie Savea, 6-Akira Ioane, 5-Sam Whitelock (capt), 4-Scott Barrett, 3-Nepo Laulala, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-George Bower. Reserves: 16-Dane Coles, 17-Ethan de Groot, 18-Angus Ta’avao, 19-Brodie Retallick, 20-Shannon Frizell, 21-Brad Weber, 22-Beauden Barrett, 23-Rieko Ioane

Meanwhile, Fiji's jerseys for the second Test will bear the message "Vaccinate Fiji", as the island nation battles a spike in Covid-19 infections, the country's rugby governing body (FRU) said.

The jerseys would also feature the phrase, "It's Your Choice" for the match at Hamilton due to concerns raised by some members of the squad regarding the vaccinate message, it added.

Infections in Fiji have risen in recent weeks, with an average of almost 700 new cases reported each day, according to a Reuters tally.

Fiji, which has a population of less than 900,000 people, has recorded over 12,000 cases and 57 novel coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began.

"We have listened to the concerns raised by some members of the squad regarding the message, and the perspective that individuals have different choices when it comes to vaccination," said FRU Chief Executive John O’Connor.

"In turn, we explained FRU's position and support for the vaccination programme in Fiji, which will help save lives and assist our health authorities in the fight against the Covid-19 outbreak."

Coach Vern Cotter had earlier said the jerseys for last weekend's 57-23 defeat in Dunedin did not feature the message because the idea had been sprung on the players late with little consultation.

- Reuters



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