Papali’i to bring extra speed to game
New Zealand will go into Saturday's (NZT) Rugby World Cup opening game with France looking for speed in the loose with captain Sam Cane and Dalton Papali'i named on the flanks of the scrum.
Papali'i's inclusion is at the expense of blindside specialist Luke Jacobson, while Shannon Frizell was not considered due to injury. He is one of four changes in the starting side in their loss to South Africa last month, with Nepo Laulala starting at tighthead prop in the place of injured Shannon Frizell, Codie Taylor as hooker, and Anton Lienert-Brown has been named to replace the injured Jordie Barrett at second five-eighths.
Coach Ian Foster said they had a lot of faith in Papali'i.
"We thought just for this game that way round would be good for us. It gives us the ability to have two guys whose instincts are around the ball. But Dalts also brings speed around the park, he has brought a lot to the group over the last couple of years and he deserves this."
Jordie Barrett had been close to making the side, but they took a precautionary stance and went with Lienert-Brown.
"It was close. We didn't know after the Twickenham test [against South Africa], he pulled up a bit sore. It was more of a jarring injury in that knee. It's precautionary in some ways, but we'd like to think he would be available next week.
"Anton is very experienced. He's had a couple of disrupted years, but behind the scenes, he has worked hard on this game. He can cover 12 and 13 for us.
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"David [Havili] has come back from a long injury, he only had one hit-out for Tasman before we came out. We felt he was a bit under-done but he's training really well. We have gone with Anton's experience on the big stage. He is craving an opportunity to show he's got his confidence back and we've got a lot of faith in him."
However, wing Emoni Narawa has not been so fortunate, and he is to return home.
"It's incredibly sad. In the Twickenham week, he ran his fastest time of the year. He was coming back from a niggly back after the Argentina test. He felt he was coming right; he's trained well and worked incredibly hard, but the last thing he did on Monday was jar it. It turns out it was the other side of the disc.
"We will sort out a plan for a replacement after Friday's game. Will it be another outside back? We will weigh that up and see where we're at. It could be in the loosies [back-row forwards]. We will assess the progress of Brodie Retallick and Shannon Frizell this weekend."
Foster said he hoped the All Blacks could give France one of their tougher Tests in recent times.
"This French team have played great rugby over the last two years, and everyone can see them building. We have also seen them put under pressure and deal with expectations and the crowd.
"Part of World Cups is the mental side, about having the confidence and courage to play the game you need to play at the right time. It is only when it all starts we will see where people are at. The key objective is to get out of the pool and into the quarterfinals. We would love to do it with a great performance against France and make things a bit easier, and I'm sure they would love to do the same."
The 2023 Rugby World Cup kicks off when the All Blacks face France at Stade de France on Saturday September 9 at 7.15am NZT (Friday 8 September, 8pm CEST).