The biggest unknown – the midfield – has remained unchanged from the All Blacks’ most recent match of the World Cup, against Namibia almost two weeks ago. Anton Lienert-Brown will combine with Jack Goodhue, whilst Sonny Bill Williams will come off the bench.
“We feel we’ve selected a great mixture of talent in our 23, who are in great form, and the squad includes many players who have a lot of Rugby World Cup knockout match experience,” said Hansen. “Together with our experienced management team, that brings a deep understanding of what is needed to get the job done.
“Past Rugby World Cup history is important because of the positive or negative experiences you’ve had. But ultimately it is what happens on the day that counts.”
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Despite trumpeting the experience of the squad, there’s no spot in the 23 for Ben Smith. Instead, Jordie Barrett will cover the outside backs from the bench.
Hansen added that all 31 players had been fit and available for selection, which was an added bonus in this stage of the tournament.
“This is a great reflection on the players themselves and the staff who have done a great job getting them through the Pool Play phase of the tournament. We are very happy where the team is at at this stage and it feels like the team is right where it needs to be for what will be a physical and fiercely-fought encounter.
Hansen concluded: “On behalf of the team, we’d like to thank all our families and supporters in New Zealand, around the world and here in Japan, particularly those who have made the effort to travel.
“The team has really appreciated the many messages we have received and we look forward to representing you all proudly on Saturday.”
New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (c), Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Dane Coles, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Angus Ta’avao, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett.
New Zealand have started a war of words that they may soon regret:
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