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Ian Foster issues update on Will Jordan, explains surprise selections for Wales

By Tom Vinicombe
(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

After mixing up their side for last weekend’s skirmish in Tokyo, the All Blacks have largely reverted back to the side that comprehensively dismissed the Wallabies at Eden Park early last month for this weekend’s clash with Wales.

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Shannon Frizell, Richie Mo’unga, Caleb Clarke and Sevu Reece are the only players to hold their spots from the match against the Brave Blossoms, while Brodie Retallick, Akira Ioane and Will Jordan are the only players missing from the starting line-up who featured against Australia.

The absences of Retallick and Jordan are unavoidable for coach Ian Foster, however, with the former serving a two-match suspension and the latter ruled out of New Zealand’s end-of-year tour altogether due to an inner-ear issue.

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“He’s dealing with a vestibular issue that’s not progressing fast so rather than him or us having any pressure around his return to play it’s just better making an early decision and just let him chill out and come right and come back firing next year,” Foster confirmed after naming his side to take on Wales.

While the bulk of the match-day squad remains consistent from the one that’s battled to a six wins and four losses throughout their 2022 campaign to date.

There are, however, a couple of surprises.

The selection of Codie Taylor at hooker will have raised a few eyebrows, with Samisoni Taukei’aho taking over as the first-choice No 2 this year.

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While Taukei’aho was originally supposed to make an appearance from the bench against Japan, a last-minute injury to Dane Coles forced a shuffle in the forwards and Taukei’aho and Taylor were both required to take the field. As such, Foster has decided to give Taylor – who has unquestionably been out of form throughout this year’s campaign – a rare starting opportunity.

“It’s just managing our three hookers, more than anything,” the head coach explained. “We had to make a late change last week with Colesy’s calf which put Soni into the starting line-up. Codie was going to have a break and he ended up playing so we just sort of felt we’ve got two battle-hardened hookers and we’ll just switch them around.

“But again, Codie was probably under a lot of pressure in his last Test start and we were delighted with how he went about it and played and it was good to see him back so it’s again a chance for him to cement his role as one of our leading hookers and we’ve got a lot of confidence in him in that regard.”

 

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With matches to come against Scotland and England, Taukei’aho will be expected to take back starting responsibilities for the remainder of the tour.

Taukei’aho’s exclusion is perhaps not quite as surprising as Jordie Barrett’s inclusion in the midfield, however.

While Barrett has been largely preferred at fullback, the 25-year-old was given an opportunity in the No 12 jersey against the Wallabies – and that’s where he’ll again start on Saturday afternoon.

“We’ve just gone with combinations from that Eden Park Test,” said Foster of the selection. “I said at the time, Jordie went in and I thought had an outstanding game. So it’s a chance to give him another start in that position in a different environment against a different team.

“It’s a bit about gathering information for the future but also pretty excited about what he brings and also the ability to use Davey [Havili] off the bench and utilise Jordie maybe in a different role later in the game.

“[Barrett] was physical, he was direct, he’s a good communicator. I think we’re in a nice spot because we were really impressed with the way Davey grew through the Rugby Championship then took a bit of a ding. That gave an opportunity for Jordie to go in there and this is a chance for him to cement his understanding of that role in our team and going forward, it just gives us a different style and a different game.”

Saturday’s match is set to kick off at 3:15pm GMT from the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

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