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Second-string All Blacks to face Japan

A second-string All Blacks side is poised to set a new mark in professional rugby when they face Japan in Tokyo.

Coach Steve Hansen has named two uncapped players in his starting team and another six on the reserves bench for Saturday’s Test at Ajinomoto Stadium.

If they all get on the field it will be the biggest blooding of new caps by New Zealand in the professional era.

It will surpass the seven newcomers used against England at Twickenham in 2002, when coach John Mitchell selected a virtual B team to tour.

Hansen elected to treat the match against the 11th-ranked Brave Blossoms as an exercise in depth-building, with his strongest group due to fly to London on Thursday to begin preparations for next week’s Test against England.

The run-on team is completely changed from that which beat Australia 37-20 in Yokohama last week.

Starting five-eighth Richie Mo’unga is the only player to lace his boots twice in Japan, having come off the bench against the Wallabies.

It is just third time in pro rugby the All Blacks have completely overhauled their XV between Tests, having done so twice in 2005 under Graham Henry.

The new caps to start are Blues flanker Dalton Papali’i and outside centre Matt Proctor, who will link with his Hurricanes teammate Ngani Laumape in the midfield.

The reserves comprise three Canterbury backs who are yet to taste Test rugby – halfback Mitchell Drummond, five-eighth Brett Cameron and outside back George Bridge.

Three bench forwards with the same status are Highlanders prop Tyrel Lomax, Highlanders flanker Dillon Hunt and Hurricanes flanker Gareth Evans.

Lomax is a former Australian age group international.

Drummond and Hunt both played for a mid-week All Blacks team in France last November.

No.8 Luke Whitelock, who was captain in that game against a French XV, is named Test skipper for the first time, following the footsteps of older brother Sam.

The most experienced player is hooker Dane Coles, who is making his first Test appearance for a year, having recuperated from a serious knee injury.

Despite their under-strength side, the world champions are expected to extend their unbeaten record in official Tests against Japan with the 54-6 result in 2013 the smallest win for the All Blacks.

ALL BLACKS: Jordie Barrett, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Matt Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Waisake Naholo, Richie Mo’unga, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Luke Whitelock (capt), Dalton Papali’i, Vaea Fifita, Jackson Hemopo, Patrick Tuipulotu, Angus Ta’avao, Dane Coles, Ofa Tu’ungafasi. Res: Liam Coltman, Tim Perry, Tyrel Lomax, Dillon Hunt, Gareth Evans, Mitchell Drummond, Brett Cameron, George Bridge.

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