June Internationals: New Zealand v Samoa Preview


New Zealand get their preparation underway for their three Tests against the Lions with Friday’s visit of Samoa.

An all most full-strength New Zealand squad take on Samoa in a Pacisifika Challenge match this Friday. This will be the second fixture of the day with the Welsh locking horns with Tonga in the opener. All Blacks mentor, Steve Hansen, will be hoping for a flawless performance from his charges with the Lions Tests looming large. While for Samoa, this game is about exposure at the highest level.

New Zealand v Samoa | Friday 16 June | Eden Park | 09:45

To Win (80 Mins)
New Zealand 1/100 | Draw 35/1 | Samoa 14/1
New Zealand (-37.5) 9/10 | Samoa (+37.5) 9/10

New Zealand 
All Blacks mentor Steve Hansen has selected an extremely strong side to face Samoa. And while there are some notable absentees – Kieran Read and Dane Coles are still recovering from injury – I suspect the majority of Friday’s run on XV will feature in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions.

With Kieran Read out, the captaincy duties will be assumed by Ben Smith, who links up with Israel Dagg and Julian Savea in a vastly experienced back three. Speaking of experienced players, there’s a return for Sonny Bill Williams, who had an absolute blinder for the Blues when they took on the Lions last week. Williams is joined in the centres by Anton Linhart-Brown, while Beauden Barrett gets the nod at fly-half with Lima Sopoaga providing cover from the bench. This will be a rather special occasion for the Barrett family with Beauden making his 50th appearance for the All Blacks and his brothers Scott and Jordie both on the bench.

On to the big men up front and we’ll start with the loose trio which sees Ardie Savea get a start at eighthman. The Hurricanes tearaway is sure to give the Samoans a hard time at the breakdown but I do worry about his ability to control the ball at the tail of the scrum. The other members of the trio are Jerome Kaino and Sam Kane, who, like Savea, will be handfuls at the breakdown as well as in general play.

The second row features some extremely tall timber with Sam Whitelock and Brodie Rettalick sure to disrupt the Samoan line out. We then have an all-Crusaders front row with Owen Franks, Codie Taylor and Joe Moody getting a chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of French official Mathieu Raynal, who didn’t take kindly to the ‘Saders boys’ scrummaging techniques last Saturday.

The first Test of the year couldn’t get much tougher for the Samoans. They generally come into these rather undercooked with their squad only assembling twice a year. And while most of these players have been operating in Europe, it’s not like they are linking up every week or at least playing alongside one or two of their fellow countrymen.

Despite a rather rushed preparation period, the Samoans could well put up a fight here as their side features some quality players, including Chiefs man Tim Nanai-Williams. The diminutive back takes on cousin Sonny Bill this week, which adds to the family like atmosphere that was already been imposed on this game by the selection of the three Barrett brothers.

Another man who knows Sonny Bill quite well is Kiron Fonotia, who played alongside most of the Crusaders boys in the New Zealand squad. This will actually be Fonotia's first cap for Samoa and he’ll be looking to make a big statement.

While Fonotia gets his for start for the Islanders, veteran Tusi Pisi will be awarded his 27th Samoan cap this Friday. This stat summarises why Samoa need to have more games like this as Pisi, a 34-year-old veteran, is 23 caps behind Beauden Barrett, who has only just recently turned 26.

Verdict: New Zealand (-37.5) 9/10
The handicap is a rather large one but in typical All Black fashion, I’m expecting the hosts to clear it with a final 20-minute flourish.

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets.net!

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