Samoa hosts the All Blacks for the first time at Apia Park, in only the sixth ever match between these two nations. It is hard to know why this is only the first time the All Blacks have played in Samoa and why it is only the sixth match between these teams given the proximity of the Oceanian nations and the number of Samoans living in New Zealand. There are several All Blacks of Samoan heritage playing in this match, making it a special event, not to be missed.
It won't be about making money for the NZRU, but it shows plenty of respect and a new challenge before the Rugby Championship and Rugby World Cup.
The last time these two teams met in 2008, the All Blacks posted over one hundred points, but given that this Samoan team is close to full strength, featuring mainly European based professional players who have at one stage played in New Zealand (several of them were born in New Zealand), then there will be plenty of pride to play for.
Samoa has an opportunity for their best ever result against the All Blacks, that will give the 8,000 strong home crowd something to cheer about, even if it will mainly be New Zealand tourists, since tickets are out of the price range of locals.
Samoa will be playing in home conditions and will be looking to improve on their most narrow defeat so far of 22 points, from back in 1993.
This game will be a tricky proposition for the All Blacks as the hosts will be encouraged by their home fans and in more familiar conditions. The All Blacks will be without their Hurricanes and Highlanders players, although they still boast a relatively strong squad, although the likes of Julian Savea, Ben Smith, Aaron Smith, Conrad Smith, Dane Coles, Ma'a Nonu and Malakai Fekitoa will especially be missed. It will be a tough assignment for the first test match of the year, especially since they only just arrived in Samoa.
The Samoan team includes some interesting names including Tim Nanai-Williams from the Chiefs, who happens to be the cousin of Sonny Bill Williams. Several other players named have played Super Rugby, and will be familiar to New Zealanders like Paul Perez, Kane Thompson, Jack Lam, Johnny Leota, Tusi Pisi, Kahn Fotuali'i, Alofa Alofa, Anthony Perenise and Census Johnson.
The All Blacks should still win, with their forward pack having a much stronger look to it than the Samoan pack. The backlines will be more evenly matched with the All Blacks missing some of their first choice backs, while Alesana Tuilagi's battle with new cap George Moala will be entertaining.
I am picking an onslaught from Samoa in the first sixty minutes, but then the All Blacks to pull away with some late tries. This will be a great game to watch. Samoa are $15 outsiders.
The All Blacks should win this match. They have shown Samoa respect by playing the best available players since the Hurricanes and Highlanders are unavailable. The experienced guys like Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Kieran Read, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock should know what it takes to get the job done.
The winning margin is tricky since Samoa will be so passionate, but you must remember that although the All Blacks haven't played in Samoa before, they still boast an impressive team and in the past they have trounced Samoa in New Zealand using less of their frontline players.
There will also be some All Blacks who are coming into this test match after rather average or injury ravaged Super Rugby campaigns and so there will be some pressure on them as well as the four test rugby debutants.
The Samoans will struggle in the set pieces and their ability to remain competitive relies on them getting some possession as they do have some dangerous outside backs.
Our pick : All Blacks by 28 points
Who are you picking to win the Samoa vs All Blacks game?
SAMOA: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Paul Perez, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tusiata Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Ofisa Treviranus (c), 7 Jack Lam, 6 Alafoti Faosiliva, 5 Kane Thompson, 4 Teofilo Paulo, 3 Census Johnson, 2 Wayne Ole Avei, 1 Sakaria Taulafo RESERVES: 16 Ma'atulimanu Leiataua, 17 Anthony Perenise, 18 Iosefa Tekori, 19 Maurie Faasavalu, 20 Peleifofoga Cowley, 21 Faialaga Afamasaga, 22 Ken Pisi
All Blacks: Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Samuel Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Andy Ellis, Daniel Carter, Charles Piutau, Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty, George Moala, Israel Dagg. Reserves: Hika Elliot, Wyatt Crockett, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Matt Todd, Brad Weber, Colin Slade, Charlie Ngatai.