All Blacks ready to dig in against Samoa with Lions on the horizon
Attacking ambition set to be limited
Sky Sports 1, 9am Friday
New Zealand's first run-out of the year will come under more scrutiny than usual in the northern hemisphere as their clash with Samoa is also their only warm-up before the Test series against the British & Irish Lions.
The All Blacks will no doubt be hoping Samoa can offer a challenge similar to what they expect to face from the Lions - a powerful scrum, strong physical pressure in midfield, and a testing kicking game.
But New Zealand are 37-point handicap favourites and a one-sided blowout will be of limited use to them as a preparation for the first Test.
It used to be an All Black trait when they were in a dominant position to let their opponents do all the work with the ball, and it would be no surprise to see them sit back and defend for spells in this match to test their resolve at soaking up pressure.
There are no great surprises in Steve Hansen's All Black line-up, with captain Kieran Read and hooker Dane Coles sidelined through injury, and there is pace in the back three as well as the flair and vision of Sonny Bill Williams out wide.
But defence, shape and discipline will be at the forefront of the players' minds as they focus on the Lions so ambition in attack may be limited to an extent while the All Blacks will want to send out a statement and stay as tight at the back as they can.
The hosts may well cover the lofty handicap line but it may not be by much, and if they set out to shut down a Samoa attack that will also be ring-rusty and unfamiliar anyway, the best bet could be to go under the points line.
Under 62.5 points
2pts 10-11 bet365
New Zealand: B Smith; I Dagg, A Lienert-Brown, S B Williams, J Savea; B Barrett, A Smith; J Moody, C Taylor, O Franks, B Retallick, S Whitelock, J Kaino, S Came, A Savea.
Replacements: N Harris, W Crockett, C Faumuina, S Barrett, V Fifita, TJ Perenara, L Sopoaga, J Barrett.
Samoa: A Tuala; A Nikoro, K Fonotia, A Leiua, T Nanai Williams; T Pisi, K Fotuali’i; V Afatia, M Leiataua, C Johnston, C Vui, F Lemalu,
P Faasalele, J Lam, , F Levave.
Replacements: S Lam, N Leatigaga,
P Alo-Emile, T Tuifua, A Faosiliva, A Faleali’i, A Leuila, K Pisi