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Mounga injury forces system change

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Mo'unga injury forces shelving of 'duel playmaker' model as Barrett moves back to 10

Injury to Richie Mo’unga has restored Beauden Barrett to his familiar role at five-eighth and prompted a recall for veteran fullback Ben Smith to the All Blacks team to face Tonga.

Coach Steve Hansen has made five personnel tweaks to start Saturday’s Test in Hamilton, New Zealand’s last before they embark on their Rugby World Cup title defence in Japan.

Hansen had previously indicated he wanted to name a team close to that which demolished the Wallabies 36-0 at Eden Park three weeks earlier.

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However, injury has forced his hand, with Mo’unga’s shoulder problem forcing Hansen to dessert the “double pivot” tactic introduced this season and employ Barrett in the No.10 jersey where he has starred for the last three years.

Smith gets a chance to prove himself at fullback following a dip in form that resulted in the 33-year-old’s axing for the Wallabies clash.

Inside centre Ryan Crotty and halfback TJ Perenara are the other promotions in the backline.

Sonny Bill Williams makes way for Crotty, who only returned to provincial action last week, two months after fracturing his thumb.

He is one of eight Crusaders in the starting side, with Hansen choosing to persevere with impressive young wingers George Bridge and Sevu Reece.

Five members of the starting pack hail from the Super Rugby champions, including flanker Matt Todd and hooker Codie Taylor, who were on the bench at Eden Park.

Among two notable inclusions on the bench is lock Scott Barrett, who has served his three-week suspension handed down for a no-arms tackle on Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper in the first Bledisloe Cup Test in Perth.

Uncapped Josh Ioane will cover five-eighth in Mo’unga’s absence. The 24-year-old is the only player named who isn’t part of New Zealand’s World Cup squad.

The Test falls two weeks out from the world champions’ blockbusting tournament-opening pool match against South Africa in Yokohama.

ALL BLACKS: Ben Smith, Sevu Reece, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Kieran Read (capt), Matt Todd, Ardie Savea, Sam Whitelock, Patrick Tuipulotu, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Res: Liam Coltman, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Angus Ta’avao, Scott Barrett, Luke Jacobson, Aaron Smith, Josh Ioane, Jordie Barrett.

-AAP

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Mo'unga injury forces shelving of 'duel playmaker' model as Barrett moves back to 10