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NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 22/06/2017 Daniel Gilhooly

ALL BLACKS STARTING XV

15 Ben Smith - 31, 61 Tests

Consistently one of their best. Positional play and counter-attack will be critical if the Lions kick as much as expected.

14 Israel Dagg - 29, 62 Tests

High balls are his specialty. Brilliant last year but needs a big Test to keep Waisake Naholo at bay.

13 Ryan Crotty - 28, 26 Tests

Coach Hansen values his sense and sensibility at the start of a tight Test. Ousts the less experienced Anton Lienert-Brown.

12 Sonny Bill Williams - 31, 34 Tests

Offloads will be one way to breach the tourists' red wall and there's not really anyone better at that.

11 Rieko Ioane - 20, 2 Tests

How are the nerves? Shock promotion to replace a try-scoring machine. A Test start was always coming but this is a big stage.

10 Beauden Barrett - 26, 50 Tests

Game-breaker extraordinaire, could have the same influence as Dan Carter 12 years ago. Will hope the goalkicking radar is attuned.

9 Aaron Smith - 28, 59 Tests

Still feeling around for his best. Keeps Perenara benched because of a rapid pass which could be deadly with quick ball.

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8 Kieran Read - 31, 97 Tests

World class and fit again. Big question - can he hit the ground running after months out like his captaincy predecessor used to.

7 Sam Cane - 25, 41 Tests

Steady if unspectacular this year, will have his hands full disrupting the methodical Lions breakdown work.

6 Jerome Kaino - 34, 78 Tests

Another not long back from injury but important he can impose himself on the muscular tourists, who have munched most Kiwi packs so far.

5 Sam Whitelock - 28, 85 Tests

As always, leads the aerial assault in a Test where possession will be nine-tenths of the law.

4 Brodie Retallick - 26, 61 Tests

Looked right back to his rampaging best against Samoa, doing a bit of everything. Collisions await.

3 Owen Franks - 29, 91 Tests

Won't be happy at what happened in Christchurch, when the Lions schooled the Crusaders tactically in the tight.

2 Codie Taylor - 26, 16 Tests

The same motivation as Franks and plenty to prove to those who reckon he's not in the same class as the injured Dane Coles.

1 Joe Moody - 28, 25 Tests

Faces one of the sternest scrum examinations of a relatively short but successful Test career.

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