There are several changes in the forward pack from last weekend: Samuel Whitelock moves into the number four jersey, with Brodie Retallick injured, and Patrick Tuipulotu comes onto the bench as lock cover for his first Test of 2018. Liam Squire and Sam Cane will again don the six and seven jerseys respectively, with Ardie Savea moving to the bench. Liam Coltman will provide hooker coverage from the bench, in his third Test.
In the backs, halfback Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett will resume their inside partnership, starting their 28th Test together, TJ Perenara will provide halfback impact off the bench, Ryan Crotty returns to the 12 jersey, with Anton Lienert-Brown at centre. Rieko Ioane returns from injury to the left wing, while Ben Smith moves to the right wing to make way for Jordie Barrett at fullback. Sonny Bill Williams returns to Test rugby after his two-and-a-half-month injury layoff, on the bench alongside Damian McKenzie.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “We’ve had a good week’s preparation here in the Capital focussing on what we need to bring to the game through our skillsets, the intensity of our play and our energy. We know that we’ll have to be at our very best in all these areas to counter an opposition we know will be desperate following their back-to-back losses. That means we’ll have to respond with a quality performance and a real hunger to be better. You just have to look at our last encounter in Cape Town to understand what kind of beast we will be facing.”
Hansen also added that the team was looking forward to playing in front of their home fans in the last home Test of 2018.
“We love playing here and the Westpac Stadium crowd really get behind the team. It’s our last home Test of the year (before away matches in Argentina and South Africa and the Northern Tour), so it’ll be a massive boost for the team playing in front of a passionate Wellington crowd.”
1. Karl Tu’inukuafe, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Sam Whitelock, 5. Scott Barrett, 6. Liam Squire, 7. Sam Cane, 8. Kieran Read (C), 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Beauden Barrett, 11. Rieko Ioane, 12. Ryan Crotty, 13. Anton Lienert-Brown, 14. Ben Smith, 15. Jordie Barrett.
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