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Narawa to debut for All Blacks with McKenzie at 10

Emoni Narawa of the Chiefs.
Emoni Narawa. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Chiefs wing Emoni Narawa will make his All Blacks debut in their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in Mendoza on Sunday morning with Damian McKenzie to start at first-five.

Fiji born Narawa will earn his first cap a few days shy of his 24th birthday, with Caleb Clarke on the other wing.

Lock Josh Lord features for the first time since 2021.

The versatile McKenzie has been preferred to Richie Mo'unga in the number 10 jersey, though the latter is on the bench and may be being held back for the home game against South Africa in Auckland a week later.

In his 113th Test, Barrett has been named at fullback and is set to surpass Dan Carter as the second most-capped All Black back in history, behind Aaron Smith (114) who takes his place at halfback.

Rieko Ioane and Jordie Barrett make up the centre pairing in Mendoza.

Lord will partner the third Barrett brother, Scott, at lock, while in front of them are props Tyrel Lomax and Ethan de Groot, and hooker Dane Coles.

Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs.
Damian McKenzie. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Captain Sam Cane is at openside with Shannon Frizell at blindside and Ardie Savea at No.8.

"We have taken the need to build combinations in a vital year and balanced it with the need to manage the squad after Super Rugby," said coach Ian Foster.

"This is obviously a massive year and we are really confident in the way that we've been building. We have had a short build-up but an effective one."

Last year was a difficult one for the side despite their victory in the Rugby Championship, but Foster believes there is a real desire to start this campaign on a positive note.

"We have loved our time here in Mendoza for what will be a tremendous challenge," he said.

"We've enjoyed seeing how excited everyone is for this weekend's game and can't wait to get stuck into our work."

Sunday morning's test will be the All Blacks first in Mendoza, with all 42,500 tickets sold two months prior to kick-off.

The city at the foot of the Andes has hosted the All Blacks for two mid-week tour games in 1976 and 1991. This year's visit was initially scheduled for 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

The last time the two teams met in Argentina, the All Blacks won 20-16 in Buenos Aires.

All Blacks team:

15-Beauden Barrett, 14-Emoni Narawa, 13-Rieko Ioane, 12-Jordie Barrett, 11-Caleb Clarke, 10-Damian McKenzie, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Ardie Savea, 7-Sam Cane (captain), 6-Shannon Frizell, 5-Josh Lord, 4-Scott Barrett, 3-Tyrel Lomax, 2-Dane Coles, 1-Ethan de Groot

Replacements: 16-Codie Taylor, 17-Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18-Nepo Laulala, 19-Tupou Vaa'i, 20-Dalton Papali'i, 21-Finley Christie, 22-Richie Mo'unga, 23-Braydon Ennor.