All Blacks under pressure to start Scott Robertson’s reign with a win

The All Blacks have selected Beauden Barrett 123 times for previous test matches but the World Cup winner and former World Player of the Year has been benched for Saturday night’s clash England in Dunedin.

New coach Scott Robertson has instead opted for Damian McKenzie at first five with the Blues Super Rugby winner Stephen Perofeta at fullback.

Stephen Perofeta. Blues training at Eden Rugby Club, Auckland, New Zealand on Tuesday 21 February 2023 ahead of the 2023 DHL Super Rugby Pacific rugby union competition. Mandatory credit: Andrew Cornaga /

Robertson said Perofeta’s recent performances have been impossible to ignore.

“A guys who’s in form. Good around the high ball. Playing great footy. Just two weeks ago was in a test match level game in the (Super Rugby) final and Beauden can play his part covering 10 and 15.”

Perofeta has played three matches for the All Blacks but his last was in 2022 and Rieko Ioane, who will start at centre against England, believes his Blues teammate is ready to make his mark at test level.

“He’s been a gun every time he’s taken the field. Especially at 15. He’s one of those players that thrives in big games and I know he’s been looking forward to playing a test match like this.”

At halfback Robertson has gone with experience, selecting TJ Perenara to start ahead of Finlay Christie and the uncapped Cortez Ratima.

TJ Perenara of the Hurricanes passes the ball during the Super Rugby Pacific Quarter Final - Hurricanes v Rebels at Sky Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand on Saturday 8 June 2024.                                                                    
Copyright photo: Masanori Udagawa /

Perenara only returned to playing this year after more than 18 months out with injury and Robertson said the Hurricanes No.9 has earned his shot.

“He’s on form. He’s a competitor, he’s 80 test matches in. He’s played a lot and been round and he’s the koro we needed. He’s owned a lot of this week and what’s required. He’s a test match footballer.”

Another player earning a recall is Crusaders wing and Super Rugby’s leading try scorer this season, Sevu Reece, who missed most of last year with a knee injury.

Reece had contemplated heading offshore this season, but said Robertson’s elevation to coach kept him in Aotearoa.

“When we all found out Razor was going to be coach that put me in two minds (about leaving New Zealand). It was a tough decision but it came down to Razor being coach, we all know what he can do and I’m excited to see what this year’s going to look like with Razor as head coach.”

Blindside flanker was one selection where pundits were divided, with some predicting Ethan Blackadder, who played under Robertson at the Crusaders, to get the nod.

Samipeni Finau of the Chiefs.

However, the coach has gone for the Chiefs enforcer Samipeni Finau, who will play his second test after debuting last year before missing out on the World Cup.

“He’s six foot five and 120 kilos and a great lineout jumper and he can tackle and he’s physical.

“He’s a test forward.”

With the game in the deep south and only one Highlanders member in the squad, there was one player Robertson couldn’t leave out.

“The heart it beats strong down here the old rugby blood goes round and they know their footy.

“They love (prop) Ethan de Groot I’ll tell you that, that’s one thing, I had to pick him hahaha, guaranteed starter haha, no he’s earned it.”

Robertson also had plenty of fans in Dunedin and he’s also found support from former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry.

“Sir Ted actually txt me and said all the best. His career (as All Blacks coach) started 20 years ago down here in the same place. So that was a nice little touch and he had a hell of a career didn’t he.”

Scott “Razor” Robertson knows anything less than victory over England will be seen as a failure and an ominous start to his tenure as coach.

England have only beaten the All Blacks twice on New Zealand soil, with the last victory in 2003.

With the tourists also missing a few key players, the pressure is well any truly on the hosts and Robertson to win.

However, the keen surfer has ways of escaping the external “noise” on the morning of a test, though he reckons it wont be in the waves in Ōtepoti.

“It was 10 foot yesterday so I won’t be going (surfing), you’ll end up in Antarctica,” Robertson said, joking.

All Blacks coach Scott Robertson during a press conference for the media ahead of the 1st test match against England this weekend in Dunedin. Thursday 4 July 2024. © Photo by Andrew Cornaga / Photosport

“I’ll get in the water in some way or another. Get a bit of exercise in and connect with a bit of the whānau that’s down, there’s been a big crew come. It’s exciting, I’ve got a lot of support and I’ve been around long enough to enjoy that but then focus back into the game.”

The bookies expect that game to result in a first up win for Robertson and this new era of All Blacks, but England will be hoping they can crash Razor’s party and claim their first victory over New Zealand in Aotearoa in 21 years.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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