All Blacks not getting ahead of themselves as season kicks off

It's a bumper weekend of rugby action in New Zealand with three international test matches taking place around the country as the British and Irish Lions series rolls on.

The Lions are in Rotorua where they'll face one of the strongest Maori All Black sides ever assembled tomorrow night.

Tonight though the All Blacks play Samoa in the Pasifika Challenge double header at Auckland's Eden Park right after Tonga play Wales.

The match marks the start of the All Blacks 2017 campaign and to kick it off they'll have a new captain - Highlander fullback Ben Smith is stepping into the role until the regular boss Kieran Read returns from injury.

Aside from Read's omission the All Blacks side is at full strength and there's good reason for it.

It's two years ago since Manu Samoa came within 10 points of upsetting the All Blacks on a hot and humid day in Apia.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen hasn't forgotten it so he's putting his best men out on the paddock.

Naming such a strong side will give the All Blacks a chance to dust off the cobwebs before the British and Irish Lions test series starts next week, but that doesn't mean tonight's game means any less to Hansen.

"Whilst the Lions is a dance that's happening in the background, there's a responsibility to the jersey and those that been before us that we go out and take this test match seriously and respect Samoan rugby for what it is.

"They're a very good rugby team and on their day they can cause and upset so we don't want to be the upset," Hansen said.

For new All Blacks captain Ben Smith, the role isn't entirely new.

Smith's been the stand-in captain in the later stages of All Blacks games before but he said being officially named captain is a dream come true.

"It's pretty exciting, I'm looking forward to the challenge. It's been a good week and I'm just excited about doing that role(captain).

"Leading the team out is going to be a massive honor for myself and my family," Smith said.