All Blacks coach Ian Foster on growth of Ioane, Tu'ungafasi and Frizell

Source: 1News

All Blacks coach Ian Foster says his first line-up since taking over the job features a couple of players he felt obliged to "reward" after showing significant growth in the last year.

Foster announced his first team since becoming the head coach this afternoon and raised a few eyebrows doing so after opting to persist with the dual-playmaker system of Richie Mo'unga at first-five and Beauden Barrett at fullback.

Another surprise came in midfield with regular second-five Anton Lienert-Brown named on the bench after Foster opted to give Rieko Ioane - who to this point has only played on the wing for the All Blacks - a start at centre.

Foster said he's always viewed Ioane as "a wing who could play centre" but never knew how long that transition would take - until now.

"I'm excited by [Ioane's midfield play]," Foster said.

"He's done well. He's worked really well through the Blues campaign and he's been committed to [playing in the midfield].

"We still like him on the wing but he's put forward such a compelling case, he's changed our mind so good on him."

Foster said the midfield was one of the toughest selections he and management had to make with Jack Goodhue eventually named to start alongside Ioane over Lienert-Brown.

"We've got massive faith in Anton and we know he can do a job but it's a bit of a reward for Rieko's form," Foster said.

"He's confident and he's running fast."

Foster said the same thinking was applied to Ofa Tu'ungafasi who will start on Sunday at tighthead prop after spending much of his early All Blacks career as a loosehead specialist.

"You've got a guy who's been loosehead for us, gone to tighthead and really forced us to pick him."

Another starter Foster said has shown significant growth in their game this year is Shannon Frizell who will play at blindside flanker in Wellington after struggling to cement his spot in the All Blacks in previous years.

"If you go back and look at the World Cup [last year], when Luke [Jacobson] got ruled out and we brought Shannon in, I thought he was one of the biggest improvers for us through that tournament.

"He really became an accurate, physical rugby player.

"He's learning all the time and he's then applied that into a Super Rugby campaign that I thought he was outstanding in so it's really a reward not just for last year but his growth over the last 18 months."

The All Blacks begin their new era under Foster this Sunday when they host the Wallabies for a Bledisloe Test in Wellington at 4pm.