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Ratima set for All Blacks debut as Razor and Borthwick make one starting change each for second Test


All Blacks coach Scott Robertson has kept the faith with the team that beat England by a point in the first Test, while young halfback Cortez Ratima is set for a debut this Saturday in game two.

Ratima comes in after the injury to TJ Perenara in New Zealand’s scratchy 16-15 win over England in Dunedin.

The loss of Perenara means just one change to the starting XV – with Finlay Christie taking the No.9 jersey after finishing from the bench last week.

England have also mat one change to their starting XV with young prop Fin Baxter replacing injured Joe Marler after stepping in for him early on in the first Test.

It will be Christie’s first Test start since the All Blacks 23-20 win over Australia in Dunedin in August 2023.

Robertson has retained Damian McKenzie at No.10 and left Stephen Perofeta at No.15 with those two covered by Beauden Barrett off the bench.

Samipeni Finau, who failed an HIA in last weekend’s win over England in Dunedin, was cleared to play and will return at blindside flanker alongside Dalton Papali’i and Ardie Savea in the loose trio.

Ratima, 23, was one of five rookies named in the squad for the series and will be the first capped.

“Finlay has worked hard and earned his place in the starting side and it will be a proud day for Cortez and his whānau. He’s a talented young man who is ready for Test footy,” Robertson said in statement.

“We can feel New Zealand’s support here in Auckland and we will hear it at a sold-out Eden Park. It’s a very special venue to the All Blacks, and we’re going there on Saturday to win the series against England.”

The coach later added his message to the 23-year-old Ratima was simple: “Just trust yourself. Be yourself”.

“He’s a good kid,” Robertson added. “He’s extremely competitive. He likes to win everything.

“Once he realised he’d been named, he just got on with it.

“He’s got a pretty good couple of mentors in front of him that he can learn off and now is his opportunity.”

The All Blacks’ winning record at Eden Park stretches back to 1994 and has included 48 wins and two draws since.

“It is our spiritual home, it is our fortress,” former All Black Ian Jones said on the BBC Rugby Union Daily podcast.

“And when you think of it as your fortress, you protect your fortress with all your might.

“The All Blacks jersey lifted you anyway, but you absolutely knew the expectation to play with all your heart and to not lose at Eden Park.

“And because of that history, you feel bulletproof.

“We have always understood about the aura and the power of Eden Park, and we have always thought it is the home of All Blacks rugby.

“It has always been a case that this is our turf, this is our fortress, let’s circle the wagons, this is our ground and we never, ever lose here.”

There is just one change to the England starting XV with Baxter added to the scrum.
 
The loosehead prop starts his first game for England having made his debut off the bench at the Forsyth Barr Stadium last Saturday and packs down in the front row with England captain Jamie George at hooker and Will Stuart at tighthead.
 
At lock, Maro Itoje continues his partnership with George Martin. An unchanged back row sees Sam Underhill at openside flanker, Chandler Cunningham-South on the blindside, and Ben Earl at No.8.
 
In the half back berths, scrum-half Alex Mitchell is once again paired with Marcus Smith at 10. The midfield sees Ollie Lawrence named at inside centre alongside Henry Slade at 13.
 
In the back three, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso starts on the right wing, with Tommy Freeman on the left and George Furbank selected at full-back to round off the starting line-up.  
 
Dan Cole will win his 115th cap from the bench to become England’s second most capped men’s player of all time behind Ben Youngs (127 caps). The tighthead prop takes his place amongst the replacements alongside Bevan Rodd, who comes into the matchday 23, Theo Dan, Alex Coles, Tom Curry, Ben Spencer, Fin Smith and Ollie Sleightholme.
 
“Eden Park is a stadium packed with history and with memories of great rugby encounters,” said Borthwick.
 
“We are delighted to be playing there this Saturday in what I anticipate will be another excellent Test encounter.  
 
“New Zealand has a formidable record at this venue, but with that comes the pressure of expectation. It will be interesting to see how New Zealand manages that expectation in front of a full house.
 
“I’d like to pay special tribute to Dan Cole who will become England’s second most capped men’s player of all time on the weekend.
 
“Dan has shown nothing but dedication and determination throughout his career, and reaching this milestone is a remarkable feat. He is a superb rugby player, a wonderful role model, and we all look forward to sharing a memorable day with him on Saturday.”
 

All Blacks

1.    Ethan De Groot (23)
2.    Codie Taylor (86)
3.    Tyrel Lomax (33)
4.    Scott Barrett (70) (Captain)
5.    Patrick Tuipulotu (44)
6.    Samipeni Finau (2)
7.    Dalton Papali’i (33)
8.    Ardie Savea (82) (Vice Captain)
9.    Finlay Christie (22)
10.  Damian McKenzie (48)
11.  Mark Tele’a (10)
12.  Jordie Barrett (58) (Vice Captain)
13.  Rieko Ioane (70)
14.  Sevu Reece (24)
15.  Stephen Perofeta (4)

16. Asafo Aumua (7)
17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (58)
18. Fletcher Newell (14)
19. Tupou Vaa’i (26)
20. Luke Jacobson (19)
21. Cortez Ratima (0)*
22. Anton Lienert-Brown (71)
23. Beauden Barrett (124)

England

(1-15): Fin Baxter, Jamie George, Will Stuart, Maro Itoje, George Martin, Chandler Cunningham-South, Sam Underhill, Ben Earl, Alex Mitchell, Marcus Smith, Tommy Freeman, Ollie Lawrence, Henry Slade, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, George Furbank

Reserves: Theo Dan, Bevan Rodd, Dan Cole, Alex Coles, Tom Curry, Ben Spencer, Fin Smith, Ollie Sleightholme.

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