Kiwis deny disrespect in resting stars
Bulk changes to the Kiwis 17 for Saturday night's clash against Scotland are more about nursing front-line players than any suggestion New Zealand will be taking the Bravehearts lightly.
That is the message from Kiwis coach David Kidwell, who has made seven changes to his side which beat Samoa 38-8 last Saturday in Auckland.
Experienced players Simon Mannering and Thomas Leuluai have both been told to put their feet up for the weekend, while dynamic winger Jordan Rapana is the other major omission, with Addin Fonua-Blake named to make his Test debut and 22-year-old playmaker Te Maire Martin set for his first start at international level.
"We have got to give Scotland respect, they are going to come out firing. Last year they gave us a really good run in an 18-all draw, so we definitely respect Scotland," Kidwell said.
"[But] one thing you can't control is your age. We have got an opportunity to [rest those older guys], we have got guys who are 100 per cent fit and younger, and it was always in my plan to give them a go.
"We need those experienced players as the tournament goes on, so I thought it was a great time to give them a bit of a rest and refresh and get behind the young guys."
Scotland were pumped 50-4 by Tonga last Sunday, leaking 12 line breaks and nine tries, but made history when they faced the Kiwis last year, becoming the first tier-two nation to earn a point against a top three side.
After being a surprise omission from New Zealand's team for their World Cup opener, Martin gets his chance due to a minor hamstring injury to incumbent five-eighth Kodi Nikorima, which saw him miss the final 11 minutes of the Samoa victory.
Kidwell said Martin had responded well to missing out on the initial team, and shown enough to warrant the opportunity to partner Shaun Johnson in the halves.
"Te Maire missing out on the first game has really driven him to make sure he does the little things at training," Kidwell said.
"He is excited about playing football on Saturday and we have been very clear on his role.
"He had a really good year, made the Grand Final... he got a lot of experience up there learning off Johnathan Thurston as well.
"Kodi is carrying a bit of an injury from the game on Saturday, I have been talking with the physio and we have decided if we are going to play him we want him to be 100 per cent.
"Te Maire is there, he is 100 per cent, that's the thought process behind it."
The match will be Martin's second Test appearance, coming against the same team he made his international debut against in last year's Four Nations campaign.
Other changes to New Zealand's team see Dean Whare start at centre for the injured Gerard Beale, Jason Nightingale and Peta Hiku assume the wing spots and Kenny Bromwich start in the back row after a groin injury kept him out last week.
Elijah Taylor will make his first Test appearance in four years, playing at hooker in place of Leuluai.