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Damian McKenzie named at No 10 as All Blacks make wholesale changes

By Tom Vinicombe

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Damian McKenzie will wear the No 10 jersey for the All Blacks‘ rematch with Los Pumas this Saturday as one of 11 changes to the starting lineup from last weekend’s 39-0 win.

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With Ian Foster suggesting earlier this month that no players would feature in all five back-to-back tests in Australia, the significant rotation in the lineup should come as no surprise.

The All Blacks haven’t simply brought in their backup players, however, with a number of key first-stringers returning to the starting line-up after sitting out Sunday’s victory.

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In the front row, Samisoni Taukei’aho will earn his first start for the All Blacks, alongside Joe Moody and Tyrel Lomax. Moody made his first appearance of the year in the black jersey last weekend, and is continuing his return from a long-standing leg injury.

Brodie Retallick gets the weekend off with the now injury-free Patrick Tuipulotu lining up alongside Tupou Vaa’i in the second row. The match will mark Vaa’i’s first start for the All Blacks in 2021 after making bench appearances over the last two games.

In the loose forwards, Ardie Savea returns as captain but will slot into the openside flanker role to accommodate for Hoskins Sotutu at the back of the scrum, who hasn’t featured in a test match since the first of the All Blacks’ wins over Fiji in July. Ethan Blackadder completes the pack and will finally have the opportunity to play in his more traditional No 6 jersey, having spent all his time on the openside flank for the NZ national side.

McKenzie will partner TJ Perenara in the halves while Quinn Tupaea and Rieko Ioane will resume their combination from the final quarter of last weekend’s match. Lienert-Brown was initially named to start at centre last week but had to pull out of the team late, which saw Rieko Ioane wear No 13 and Tupaea join the bench.

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Jordie Barrett, meanwhile, holds his place at fullback for a third consecutive test and will be joined in the back three by the Crusaders duo of George Bridge and Will Jordan.

The bench comprises Codie Taylor, George Bower, Ofa Tuungafasi and Luke Jacobson in the forwards, with Braydon Ennor set to make his first appearance of the year in the No 23 jersey. Blues teammates Finlay Christie and Beauden Barrett complete the backline substitutes.

The All Blacks have a handy lead at the top of the Rugby Championship ladder, courtesy of three bonus-point wins from their three matches played to date.

Saturday’s fixture – which will follow the rematch between the Springboks and Wallabies – looms as a potential banana skin, given the historic loss the Pumas inflicted on the All Blacks last year.

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With ample experience throughout the squad, however, the All Blacks will no doubt enter the match full of confidence they can retain their unbeaten record for the year.

All Blacks: Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Quinn Tupaea, George Bridge, Damian McKenzie, TJ Perenara, Hoskins Sotutu, Ardie Savea, Ethan Blackadder, Tupou Vaa’i, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tyrel Lomax, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Joe Moody. Reserves: Codie Taylor, George Bower, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Barrett, Luke Jacobson, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Braydon Ennor.

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Damian McKenzie named at No 10 as All Blacks make wholesale changes

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