Sam Cane, Dane Coles on bench for All Blacks against US

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Sam Cane will play his first test of the season when New Zealand faces the United States on Saturday, although it won't be as captain of the All Blacks.

Lock Sam Whitelock will lead New Zealand in its first match in the United States for seven years while Cane will be on the bench as he makes his return from a serious injury.

The team named Thursday by head coach Ian Foster is composed mostly of players who missed or had little playing time in the recent Rugby Championship in Australia. Whitelock chose to sit out New Zealand’s Championship matches in Australia to be with his wife, who recently gave birth.

He will lead the All Blacks in all of the tests on their northern tour against the United States, Wales, Italy, Ireland and France as Cane focuses on his return. Cane became New Zealand’s regular captain when Kieran Read retired after the 2019 World Cup but missed the Rugby Championship and previous tests against Australia, Tonga and Fiji because of a torn pectoral muscle.

He will be joined on the bench by lock Josh Lord who has been named to make his debut as a replacement. Lord was called up after Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu returned to New Zealand at the end of the Rugby Championship.

Hooker Dane Coles, who missed the Championship because of a calf muscle injury, is also named on the bench.

Richie Mo’unga missed most of the Australian leg of the Rugby Championship while awaiting the birth of his second child, and will start at flyhalf on Saturday. He joined the All Blacks in Australia in time to be on the bench for the final match against the Springboks.

Mo’unga will combine with Scotland-born scrumhalf Finlay Christie, who will start a test for the first time. Braydon Ennor will also start for the first time at center, as will Ethan de Groot at loosehead prop.

“Finlay has made the most of his opportunities and he just keeps growing his game and getting better and better and we’re delighted at how he’s going,” Foster said. “Braydon has had a year disrupted by injury but he’s back.

“He’s running fast and we’re again looking forward to seeing how he goes.”

Foster has named a strong attacking back three with Damian McKenzie at fullback and Will Jordan and George Bridge on the wings. Ennor will combine in midfield with Quinn Tupaea.

Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papalii and Hoskins Sotutu will form a powerful back row, likely to feature Cane later in the match.

The bench is particularly strong with Cane, Coles, scrumhalf T.J. Perenara, flyhalf Beauden Barrett and center Anton Lienert-Brown.

Saturday’s match at FedExField — normally the home of the NFL's Washington Football Team — is the fifth official test between New Zealand and the United States, the first since their 2014 meeting in Chicago.

“The chance for us to play in a new city and new stadium is pretty special and the group is really excited and looking forward to the occasion,” Foster said. “It’s time to get back into our groove after our break in Australia and with a number of players having not played for a while. It’s time to get our game going again and we are ready to go.”

Center Bryce Campbell will captain an Eagles team much changed from the one which was beaten 34-15 by Uruguay in a World Cup qualifying match on Oct. 9. Only five members of that starting 15 remain.

Ireland-born flyhalf Luke Carty and scrumhalf Nate Augspurger, who started on the bench against Uruguay, will now combine in the starting lineup.

Three players are in line for test debuts. Ryan James will start on the right wing in his first test while Chad Gough and Faka’osi Pifeleti likely will make their debuts from the bench. Pifeleti is the younger brother of established Eagles player Kapeli Pifeleti.

South Africa-born head coach Gary Gold expects a much better performance from the Eagles than they produced again Ururguay.

“Facing the No. 2 team in the world is an incredible challenge for anyone and, as we’ve said many times, these are the high-pressure situations we want to put ourselves in," Gold said. “Matches like these can be a true test of character as they force split-second decisions in intense and hectic environments. This is an exciting opportunity for us to expose our younger players to the best in the world while allowing our experienced guys to be leaders and help guide the cohesion of the group."

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New Zealand: Damian McKenzie, Will Jordan, Braydon Ennor, Quinn Tupaea, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Finlay Christie; Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii, Luke Jacobson, Tupou Vaa’i, Sam Whitelock (captain), Angus Ta’avao, Asafo Aumua, Ethan de Groot. Reserves: Dane Coles, George Bower, Tyrel Lomax, Josh Lord, Sam Cane, T.J. Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Anton Lienert-Brown.

United States: Will Hooley, Ryan James, Tavite Lopeti, Bryce Campbell (captain), Ryan Matyas, Luke Carty, Nate Augspurger; Cam Dolan, Hanco Germishuys, Benjamin Bonasso, Nick Civetta, Nate Brakeley, Paul Mullen, Dylan Fawsitt, Matt Harmon. Reserves: Chad Gough, Faka’osi Pifeleti, Dino Waldren, Siaosi Mahoni, Moni Tonga’uiha, Andrew Guerra, Michael Baska, Mike Dabulas.

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