Ben Stokes is the scalp most prized by Neil Wagner after the England batsman finished day one of the first Test with New Zealand on 67 not out.

The tourists overcame a slow start and recovered from 120-3 to reach 241-4 by the close at Bay Oval.

Stokes – described by Wagner as "a bit of a freak" – was key to their revival, compiling his timely knock patiently as he faced 114 balls, sending nine to the boundary rope.

The all-rounder has proven a thorn in the Black Caps' side before, most notably in a superlative display at the Cricket World Cup final in July.

And left-arm seamer Wagner is determined not to give Stokes any more footage for his ever-expanding highlights reel.

"Ben is that sort of a player," said Wagner. "He is a special talent and he is a bit of a freak at times.

"For us, everyone wants to get him out because you know how important a wicket he is."

At the top of the order, Rory Burns made a half century but could have been sent packing with only 10 runs to his name when he appeared to edge Trent Boult.

However, the appeal was tame and dismissed, with no review taken, which proved a mistake – although an understandable one, according to Wagner.

"It's quite a tough ground. There was another one that sounded like a nick and was nowhere near the bat," he explained.

"When it's windy – and you don't always feel that from the grass banks – it's quite hard to hear those things.

"There was a little bit of a noise [for the Burns chance] but it was a bob each way; [sometimes] you want to take that risk but also you want to keep hold of them for when you do need them."

England made a solid start to the first Test against New Zealand thanks largely to Joe Denly and Ben Stokes on Thursday.

Denly (74) and Stokes (67 not out) helped England reach 241-4 at stumps on day one after the tourists opted to bat in Mount Maunganui.

Rory Burns (52) also made a half-century as Chris Silverwood's team stayed patient at Bay Oval to put themselves in a decent position.

Colin de Grandhomme (2-28) was the pick of New Zealand's bowlers, while Tim Southee (1-46) and Neil Wagner (1-77) also took wickets.

But Stokes, given a late life, and Ollie Pope (18) managed to get to stumps on a fine opening day for England.

After England decided to bat under sunny skies, Burns and debutant Dom Sibley made a good start.

Burns was lucky to survive when on 10, appearing to edge Trent Boult (0-61) behind, only to be given not out as the Black Caps opted not to review.

England had scored heavily through the leg side early in the day before De Grandhomme struck, Sibley (22) edging to Ross Taylor at first slip.

Denly joined Burns as the tourists continued to enjoy the better start to the Test, the latter escaping an lbw review when on 44.

After Burns brought up his fifth Test 50, De Grandhomme delivered another breakthrough for New Zealand as the opener edged through to BJ Watling.

Joe Root (2) had struggled as the Black Caps kept things tight, the England captain's 22-ball stay ending when he edged to Southee off Wagner.

They were the wickets New Zealand needed before tea, and Denly brought up his fifth Test half-century with a brilliant drive off Wagner after the break.

Stokes and Denly looked comfortable approaching stumps, but the second new ball brought the hosts another wicket.

A ball after another fine boundary, Denly edged Southee and a diving Watling took a good catch to his right.

New Zealand squandered a great chance late in the day, Taylor dropping Stokes – who was on 67 – at slip off Boult to ensure England were left in a fine position.

Kane Williamson explained it was a "tough" decision to leave Lockie Ferguson out of the New Zealand side for the first Test against England but insisted the paceman's time will come.

The uncapped Ferguson, 28, will not make his debut when the first-ever Test at Bay Oval gets under way on Thursday, with Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner getting the nod.

Black Caps captain Williamson hinted that the rapid Ferguson, outstanding in the Cricket World Cup, could make his bow in the longest format in the near future.

Williamson said of the bowler's omission for the start of the two-match series: "It was tough.

"We know what he can bring - he's certainly not far away and he's an exciting prospect.

"He brings something a little different which is really exciting, no doubt he's raring to go if and when that opportunity comes. His name will always be discussed."

He added: "The three that we've gone with are guys that have been in the group for a long period of time and performed really well for us, so I know they're looking forward to getting back into Test cricket.

"It's great to have so many guys in the environment who are very much raring to go and all offering different things."

All-rounder Todd Astle was released from the New Zealand squad along with Ferguson.

For England, opening batsman Dom Sibley will make his debut and Ollie Pope returns while Sam Curran was preferred to Chris Woakes in Mount Maunganui.

Dom Sibley will open the batting for England in the first Test against New Zealand, while Sam Curran has been given the nod ahead of Chris Woakes.

The opening clash of the two-match series begins in Mount Maunganui on Thursday, with debutant Sibley joining Rory Burns at the top of the order.

Curran has been preferred to fellow all-rounder Woakes in a line-up unchanged from the three-day warm-up fixture with New Zealand A.

Warwickshire star Sibley scored 14 in that match, in which England batted for only one innings and settled for a draw.

He was the stand-out performer in the 2019 County Championship season, scoring 1,324 runs at an average of 69.68.

England, who beat the Black Caps in the Cricket World Cup final and won the T20 series 3-2, have won only two of their last 11 Test series away from home.

England team to face New Zealand: 

Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Joe Denly, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Jofra Archer, Jack Leach, Stuart Broad.

England paceman Jofra Archer still underestimates his own talent, according to captain Joe Root.

Archer is only four games into his Test career, but has taken 22 wickets at an average of 20.27 and shapes as being a key in England's series against New Zealand.

But Root said the 24-year-old needed to have more belief in his own abilities ahead of the series opener in Mount Maunganui starting on Thursday.

"Jofra adds something slightly different to what we had previously, but one thing he underestimates is his own talent," Root said, via the Daily Mail.

"That pace through the air can be a big skill on its own. I want him to enjoy bowling, and to come away from here learning there is more than one way of taking wickets. He doesn't have to be seaming or swinging it round corners.

"He makes it look ridiculously easy with his action and the way he approaches the crease.

"But to be able to bowl at that pace for a period of time is a skill in itself, and I think he needs to understand that."

England named their team for the first game on Wednesday, with opener Dom Sibley set for his Test debut.

Meanwhile, New Zealand released Lockie Ferguson and Todd Astle from their squad.

Gary Stead says New Zealand have the pace attack to "fight fire with fire" in the Test series against England.

The Black Caps and Joe Root's side start the two-match series at Mount Maunganui on Thursday following a 3-2 T20I triumph for the tourists.

Jofra Archer did not play in that series but was not holding back in two tour matches in Whangarei ahead of the Test leg of the trip, but head coach Stead feels uncapped fast bowler Lockie Ferguson can add another dimension to New Zealand's attack.

"Jofra Archer will be a threat. He is a point of difference. But he can only bowl from one end," Stead said.

"And we've someone in our squad who bowls at a similar type of speed in Lockie Ferguson. It's really exciting to be able to fight fire with fire in some ways.

"And it's exciting that there's a potential debut for him at some stage as well. I think it's really good in terms of the balance of the squad that we have five pace bowlers who all offer us slightly different things.

"He added: "England are a fine Test team. They've got some real world-class players. We'll have to be somewhere near the top of our game throughout the whole series.

"We just want to be as competitive as we can, take the games deep and hopefully if we do that then you get on the right side of some of the results when you get to the back end of games.

"It sounds like Archer bowled fast in Whangarei. Every time he's bowled, he's bowled with heat so I don't think that's a big surprise to anyone. He's a world-class player and he started in the Ashes with a real hiss and a roar.

"For us it's about getting used to that extra pace and then combating it and working out a way you can continue to score."

Warren Gatland still harbours ambitions to one day coach his native New Zealand despite having turned down the chance to apply for the role.

The All Blacks are on the hunt for a new head coach following the end of Steve Hansen's reign, which returned two Rugby World Cup triumphs and a run to the semi-finals of this year's tournament in Japan.

Gatland also ended his 12-year reign with Wales after the World Cup and was tipped as potential successor to Hansen.

However, the 56-year-old had already signed a four-year deal with Super Rugby side Chiefs, during which time he will take a year out to coach the British and Irish Lions for a third time.

Gatland said the timing of the All Blacks opportunity was not right but discussions with New Zealand's high performance manager Mark Anthony left the door ajar in future.

Asked if he would still like to coach New Zealand, Gatland told The Guardian: "Absolutely.

"I went back and gave my reasons why I just couldn't apply for the job right now. I've got it on my phone."

Gatland fell agonisingly short of ending his Wales tenure with at least an appearance in the World Cup final as his side went down 19-16 to champions South Africa in a tense last-four clash.

Had Wales found a way past the Springboks, Gatland is convinced Wales could have beaten England in the final.

"I thought if we beat South Africa, even with injuries, I would've gone into the game against England feeling we could win the World Cup," he said. 

"There wasn't that fear factor against England. It would have been different if the All Blacks had won their semi-final. For some of the Welsh players the All Blacks are still on a pedestal because New Zealand’s the one team we haven't beaten. 

"But against England, psychologically, we would have been confident because the guys have had success and we had an effective game plan. 

"The results have been 50-50 and, knowing you're capable of beating them, makes a massive difference."

England's own place in the final was booked with a barnstorming victory over New Zealand, a performance Gatland opined would be difficult to replicate.

That drew a retort from Eddie Jones that Gatland should enjoy the third-place play-off fixture.

But Gatland said the comments from both men were not said with hostility.

"I wasn't actually referring to England," Gatland said. "And Eddie wasn't being malicious in his comment. 

"Eddie and I often laugh about this because it's a game. What I meant is that if you look at previous World Cups the only team that has beaten the All Blacks and gone on to win it is Australia. 

"Emotion plays a massive part in big games. It's very difficult, at the highest level of sport, to be right on the edge emotionally and repeat that the following week."

Jamie Joseph is out of contention to become New Zealand head coach after committing his future to Japan.

The former All Blacks forward was thought to be among the front-runners to replace Steve Hansen, who departed after their Rugby World Cup defence ended in semi-final defeat to England.

However, Joseph joins the likes of Warren Gatland, Joe Schmidt and John Mitchell in opting not to pursue arguably the most coveted job in world rugby.

Joseph has instead extended his contract with Japan through to December 2023, having guided the Cherry Blossoms to an unprecedented World Cup quarter-final on home soil.

"I have great expectations for rugby in Japan and I'm very honoured that I can lead the team towards the next World Cup," Joseph said via a statement on the Japan Rugby Football Union's official website.

"We achieved the goal of being among the top eight countries in the World Cup, but there are still more issues to be tackled.

"To that end, I chose the path to challenge with the Japanese national team again. I want to strengthen the team."

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, Ian Foster - who served as assistant to Hansen - and Glasgow Warriors boss Dave Rennie are thought to be on the shortlist to replace Hansen, who led New Zealand to World Cup glory in 2011 and 2015.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck became just the fifth New Zealander to win the prestigious men's Golden Boot award on Sunday.

Tuivasa-Sheck scooped the prize, which is awarded to the best international player of the year, ahead of Tonga prop Siosiua Taukeiaho and New Zealand team-mate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

The 26-year-old returned from a 12-month international absence to help his country defeat Tonga 34-14 in the Oceania Cup Test and also featured in a 2-0 series triumph over Great Britain.

He also ran 167 metres and set up his team's only try in the 26-4 defeat to Australia.

"Putting on the black and white jersey and representing my country is always a privilege and winning this Golden Boot award is a huge honour," said Tuivasa-Sheck.

"Thank you to the IRL, NZRL and, of course, my family, as without their love and support, none of this would be possible.

"This year's campaign has been one to remember, and although being away from my family was difficult, this makes it all worth it, this award is for them."

Australia star Jessica Sergis enhanced her standing as one of the best in the world by taking home the women's Golden Boot.

Ben Stokes does not expect England to have any problem with focus going into the Test series with New Zealand as their incredible 2019 nears its conclusion.

Stokes enjoyed a starring role in England's incredible World Cup final triumph over the Black Caps and then played one of the greatest Test innings of all time to inspire a remarkable one-wicket victory in the third Ashes encounter against Australia at Headingley.

England were ultimately unable to regain the Ashes in captivating series that finished 2-2, but Stokes insists he and the rest of the team will be able to put all that behind them as they gear up for a two-Test rubber with New Zealand.

Joe Root's side travel to South Africa in December, England facing the Proteas in four Tests before Eoin Morgan leads them in three ODIs and three T20s.

"When you're touring and representing your country it doesn't take too much to get you going," Stokes told the BBC's Test Match Special.

"The thing about our winter is that it's pretty hectic again, we've got so much to focus on that summer 2019's pretty much been and gone. All the focus in the dressing room is what have we got coming ahead."

Stokes was speaking after day one of England's tour match against New Zealand A in Whangarei, where there were brief fears for the fitness of Root after he took a blow to the leg.

"At one point we were discussing whether he'd hurt his knee, ankle or hamstring," Stokes added. 

"Thankfully it was neither, he just took a bump on his leg from stopping the ball, sort of got a dead leg. It was good to see him running back on the field."

Mick McCarthy admitted Robbie Brady is still lacking match fitness after watching the midfielder lead the Republic of Ireland to victory over New Zealand.

Brady set up Ireland's equaliser in their 3-1 friendly win on Thursday when his corner was headed in by Derrick Williams.

But captain-for-the-night Brady left manager McCarthy seemingly unconvinced about his readiness for the biggest battles.

And that may mean he has to settle for a substitute role in Monday's crunch Euro 2020 qualifier against Denmark.

"I think Robbie needs more game time. I don't think he's fully match sharp to be playing and he needs games," McCarthy told RTE. "Yes he can play because he played tonight and yes he's played for Burnley.

"But is he really match-hardened, like 10, 12, 15 games? He’s not and I think he felt that tonight. But he's delighted with being the captain and he's done OK."

McCarthy saw flaws in Ireland's performance, saying that in the early stages "our intensity wasn't that great" but stressing the display was "far better" In the second half.

He was delighted with man of the match Sean Maguire, who scored a brilliant first international goal to cap an enterprising all-round performance.

"He was excellent," said McCarthy, "and he was in training as well this week. He got a great goal – it was a terrific finish."

Sean Maguire staked a claim to be involved in the Republic of Ireland's biggest game for two years by scoring and starring in the friendly win over New Zealand.

Preston North End forward Maguire struck the hosts' second in a 3-1 victory against the All Whites in Dublin, with his first international goal a 20-yard sizzler into the top right corner.

Maguire could have had more goals and created a string of chances for others on Thursday, earning man-of-the-match honours as Ireland came from behind to post a persuasive win.

Ireland's team that faces Denmark in a crucial Euro 2020 qualifier on Monday, however, is sure to show significant changes, given manager Mick McCarthy chose not to risk several key players against New Zealand.

Maguire may still have a role to play, and should he be involved then he knows what another goal would mean to the country, with a victory required to reach next year's finals.

"That would be the perfect scenario – [it doesn't] matter who scores on Monday, as long as we get those three points," Maguire said. "It'd be a special Euros in the summer, potentially having two games in Dublin. All focus is now on Monday night."

The 25-year-old told RTE it was high time he got off the mark for his country and "better late than never" that he finally netted.

"It's just over two years since I made my debut here against Moldova and I suppose it's been a long time coming," Maguire said.

"It was probably the hardest of four or five chances I got tonight, but thankfully I got it out of my feet and struck the ball into the bar corner. I was happy to get my first goal and I think it was important tonight to put on a good performance like we did, heading into the game on Monday.

"Obviously it's a massive game, probably the biggest in a couple of years."

Dressing-room advice from Ireland's record goalscorer Robbie Keane persuaded Maguire it could be his night, and the proof came with the strike early in the second half.

"I felt I was getting into the right areas," Maguire said. "Robbie said to me at half-time, 'Keep making those runs and keep getting into those areas'.

"You dream of these days, especially scoring for your country and I'm absolutely delighted.

"I've been playing off the left a lot this season with Preston and when the gaffer told me before the game I'd be playing off the left I fancied myself to get in position to score a goal."

Sean Maguire pulled the strings as the Republic of Ireland beat New Zealand 3-1 in their Dublin friendly.

The Preston North End forward scored the goal of the game and was the home team's most lively performer, with Blackburn Rovers' Derrick Williams and Sheffield United's Callum Robinson also netting for Mick McCarthy's side.

For all three scorers, the goals were their first at international level.

Youngster Callum McCowatt had given New Zealand a lead on the half-hour mark and he caught the eye more than Burnley's Chris Wood, before the All Whites ran out of steam.

Thursday's clash was a warm-up, ostensibly, for the Republic before a crucial Euro 2020 qualifier against Denmark, but it was a fringe team selected by McCarthy.

The home side had the first clear chance but left-back Williams could only produce a shot-cum-clearance from 12 yards after Alan Browne's cross.

New Zealand – appearing after a 525-day absence from the senior international stage – broke through when the hosts' backline was picked apart and McCowatt slid home a fine cross from the left by Liberato Cacace.

It made for a promising start to the reign of new head coach Danny Hay, the former Leeds United and New Zealand defender who in August succeeded Fritz Schmid in the post.

However, Ireland ultimately overpowered their visitors. Williams surpassed his earlier wayward effort on the stroke of half-time, heading in Robbie Brady's corner for an equaliser.

New Zealand captain Winston Reid was substituted at half-time, the West Ham defender having made his first senior appearance since March 2018 after a knee injury.

Ireland went in front after 52 minutes when Maguire cracked a 20-yard strike into the top-right corner, and he created a string of chances for others.

Robinson grabbed the Republic's third in the 75th minute, meeting Lee O'Connor's fine cross from the right with a stooping header from eight yards.

 

What does it mean?

Not even McCarthy was seriously looking for a statement performance to send out a warning to Denmark. The XI that faces the Danes will be pretty much unrecognisable, as McCarthy has already acknowledged. This game afforded the kids a chance, seeing who might become contenders for a tournament Ireland might not even reach. For New Zealand, a new dawn under Hay means dreams of reaching the Qatar 2022 World Cup finals. The more games they play, the better. Just what have they been doing for the last year and a half?

Maguire stakes a claim

On a chilly night in Dublin, Maguire was a livewire on the right side of Ireland's front three. He may be the big beneficiary of this friendly, a player that could come in and make things happen for the Irish back at their home stadium on Monday.

Voting with their feet

The Irish public made it clear what they thought of this game. The stands were half empty, being generous, for what was a glorified training game. It will be a different story on Monday.

What's next?

Beat Denmark next week and the Republic will be through to the Euro 2020 finals. New Zealand will not face another near 18-month wait for a fixture, with their next game coming up on Sunday against Lithuania.

Sonny Bill Williams is determined to "turn some heads" with Toronto Wolfpack after revealing he took "stick" from team-mates over another cross-code switch.

Fresh from representing New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup, Williams has given up the 15-a-side game for another dabble in the 13-player code.

It will be a third stint in rugby league for the 34-year-old, who has also competed in professional boxing, and he has vowed to make an impact with the Super League newcomers.

He comes in on a salary worth a reported £2.6million per year, unprecedented money for a single player in the sport, with his signing a statement of intent by his new employers.

"As Toronto players, I think we're going out there to turn some heads," Williams said on Thursday. "But then also the amount of support the lads have back in Toronto, it sounds crazy.

"It's a journey, there's a bit of pressure there but it's so exciting."

He was speaking in London at a news conference to announce his arrival in the UK-centred league, with Toronto the ambitious Canadian outfit who played their first match less than three years ago.

Next term will be their first in the top tier, and Williams said he felt "really grateful and blessed for this opportunity but I understand what I'm coming into".

He is confident the level of pressure that will be on him and Toronto is something he can thrive on, explaining he was offered the chance to join coach Brian McDermott's team "around the World Cup time".

Speculation linking him to Toronto had been bubbling along for months, and Williams decided the time was right to leave Auckland-based Super Rugby side the Blues when a deal was tabled.

"Obviously the lads in the teams I've been playing for were giving me stick but I hadn't heard anything from the club. Once it all came about it came to fruition really quickly," Williams said.

"But I just go back to the conversations that I had with Brian. Yes, I'm a sportsman, but I need to have that purpose, something I really believe in, and just his philosophy, how he wants to play the game, I feel like the way I strive to play the game, I could be really suited to their style of play."

McDermott knows the new acquisition will raise the profile of Toronto's team, and Super League as a whole, after pointing to the huge numbers of television viewers that saw Williams in World Cup action.

"They're going to follow where he's gone to and take interest," McDermott said. "Now they may have no interest whatsoever to start with in Super League or the Wolfpack, but they are now going to do that."

Kane Williamson has been passed fit to captain a New Zealand Test squad to face England and Australia that includes uncapped paceman Lockie Ferguson.

A hip injury kept Williamson out of the five Twenty20 internationals on home soil against England, with the tourists earning a 3-2 series victory thanks to a Super Over triumph at Eden Park on Sunday.

The 29-year-old batsman has recovered in time to lead the Black Caps in the inaugural Test at his home ground of Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui, which begins next Thursday.

New Zealand will then face England again at Seddon Park from November 29 before a trio of Tests against trans-Tasman rivals Australia, the first of which takes place at Optus Stadium in Perth.

"Kane's made good progress over the past fortnight and we're delighted to welcome back a player of his class and experience," said selector Gavin Larsen.

"It's obviously going to be a very special Test for him and Trent Boult being such passionate locals - we know there's already a lot of excitement in that part of the Bay of Plenty."

Williamson will be joined by Ferguson, who has earned his maiden Test call-up after becoming a key cog for the Kiwis in white-ball cricket.

The 28-year-old paceman has claimed 153 wickets in 42 first-class matches at an average of 24.30.

"There's no doubt Lockie has been knocking on the door for a while now and we're delighted to finally bring him into the Test fold," Larsen said.

"It's well documented he has raw pace, but he also possesses a quality bowling skill set and has proven durability to stay on the park.

"He showed good form against England in the recent T20 series and backed that up with a solid outing for the Auckland Aces in the Plunket Shield where he claimed 4-23 against the Wellington Firebirds.

"Our pace bowling stocks are strong at the moment and we feel Lockie will add another dimension to the picture which will create some great competition."

 

New Zealand Test squad: Kane Williamson (c), Todd Astle, Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling.

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