Francis Saili will be the new boy on the block, but he’ll have plenty of experience beside him when he makes his Test debut against Argentina.


The 22-year-old Blues second five-eighth is the one uncapped player in the All Blacks team for the Rugby Championship clash in Hamilton on Saturday night.

On either side of him in the backline will be 95-Test first five Dan Carter and 71-cap centre Conrad Smith.

Coach Steve Hansen says having Carter and Smith there will be a big help for Saili.

“For someone like Francis, it’s the perfect scenario – you’ve got a couple of old heads just keeping him calm,” he said.

“You can tell he’s pretty excited, so you just have to keep him calm until Saturday and then let him rip.”

Saili replaces Ma’a Nonu in one of three changes from the side that started the 27-16 win over Australia in Wellington two weeks ago.

Carter is back from a calf problem to reclaim the No.10 jersey from Tom Taylor, an injury call-up who himself finished his Test debut in the casualty ward with damaged ribs.

Carter will go into the match one point short of being the first player to score 1400 Test points.

In the pack, tight-head prop Charlie Faumuina will get his 10th cap and third start in place of Owen Franks, who picked up a groin injury against the Wallabies.

Saili has had to bide his time to get his Test debut, after making the 32-man squad for the France series in June.

He didn’t get game time against the French and then an ankle injury meant he missed a probable spot on the bench in the Bledisloe Cup opener against the Wallabies in Sydney.

Hansen said Saili had a wide skill set that included his pace, defence, passing and ability to kick with his left foot.

“It’s just a matter of him working through the risk and rewards of using all those skills at the right time,” he said.

“That’s why we’ve taken a bit of time to work on that and we’re comfortable he understands now what he has to do at Test rugby as opposed to Super rugby.”

Hansen said Nonu, who has been playing on a painful ankle, could have been picked against the Pumas.

However, the selectors decided to follow medical advice that it would be better to give him another week off to get the injury right.

Meanwhile, skipper Richie McCaw will play his 119th Test, and his 48th in the Rugby Championship/Tri-Nations, equalling the competition record of former Wallabies captain George Gregan.

All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Francis Saili, Julian Savea, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Steven Luatua, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Charlie Faumuina, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Jeremy Thrush, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Charles Piutau.

New boy Saili has plenty of help at hand