The All Blacks have named their squad for the first Bledisloe Cup match of the year and, as expected, the three first-choice loose forwards have been all named to start.
In a surprise twist, however, it’s not Kieran Read that has been moved from the back of the scrum to the blindside flank. Instead, Ardie Savea will pack down in the 6 jersey with Sam Cane remaining on the openside.
Other changes to the forwards include Dane Coles coming in at hooker and Scott Barrett starting in his first game back from injury. He will take over from the injured Brodie Retallick in the second row.
In the backs, Aaron Smith starts at halfback, while Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue will combine in the midfield for their first start together. Ngani Laumape returns to the 23 on the bench, with Sonny Bill Williams lining up for Counties Manukau this weekend.
Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett have both been kept on in the 10 and 15 jerseys respectively.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “Our preparation this week here in Perth has been very good. We can tell that it’s ‘Bledisloe One’ week as there’s a real sense of purpose in everything we do, and a real desire to do it well.
“With the extra time together, we’re starting to see an improved clarity of roles out on the training park. We’ll need to take the confidence that comes with that clarity into the Test on Saturday and deliver a game which has high energy, high skill and great decision-making.
“The Bledisloe Cup has always been incredibly important to this team and teams before us. It’s those teams, ourselves, our country and our many fans that inspire and drive us to want to go out and ‘re-take’ the trophy. We’ve never felt that it’s about going out and ‘retaining’ the Cup because it’s always been about earning the right to have it. This Saturday is no different. Both teams will be desperate and hungry for success.”
1. Joe Moody (38)
2. Dane Coles (62)
3. Owen Franks (107)
4. Scott Barrett (29)
5. Samuel Whitelock (109)
6. Ardie Savea (36)
7. Sam Cane (61)
8. Kieran Read – captain (119)
9. Aaron Smith (84)
10. Richie Mo’unga (10)
11. Rieko Ioane (25)
12. Anton Lienert-Brown (35)
13. Jack Goodhue (8)
14. Ben Smith (78)
15. Beauden Barrett (75)
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