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Why Sam Whitelock has been handed All Black captaincy over Ardie Savea

By AAP
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

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All Blacks skipper Sam Cane will miss the Rugby Championship decider against Australia, with Sam Whitelock leading New Zealand as they chase the title.

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Coach Ian Foster has made five changes to the team that pocketed the Bledisloe Cup for another year with their 39-37 triumph in Melbourne last Thursday.

Cane, who like David Havili suffered a head knock in last week’s Test and will miss the Eden Park rematch, will be replaced at seven by Dalton Papali’i.

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As predicted, Ardie Savea returns to the XV after staying in New Zealand last week for the birth of his third child.

Foster has opted for Whitelock, who will earn his 140th cap, as skipper over Savea, allowing the tyro No.8 to get back into the groove.

“It takes a bit of adjustment when you miss a week,” Foster said.

“We really felt it was better for Ardie to get back into it and get his mind onto his role.”

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Jordie Barrett, who scored the match-winning 81st-minute try last week, will be unleashed in midfield at inside centre while brother Beauden Barrett jumps from the bench to start on the wing.

Akira Ioane and Codie Taylor also come into the starting side, while in-form forward Scott Barrett misses due to calf tightness and Samisoni Taukei’aho goes to the bench.

Taukei’aho scored a double last week but Foster said he’d opted for Taylor for his freshness “to change the picture a little bit”.

Despite the changes and poor early season form, the All Blacks are firm favourites at their house of pain, Eden Park, where they are unbeaten against the Wallabies since 1986.

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Foster’s side can claim the southern hemisphere title by beating Australia with a better result than South Africa, who play Argentina a few hours later in Durban.

“It’s got a final-type feel,” Foster said.

“If you look at the state of the rugby championship, there’s a few unknowns isn’t there … but there’s a massive part that we can control.

“This is what Test match rugby is all about and we can’t wait.”

Quinn Tupaea is also out after suffering a season-ending knee injury at the hands of Wallabies lock Darcy Swain last week.

The Sanzaar judiciary handed Swain a six-week ban for the illegal cleanout.

The Wallabies hold a mathematical, if unlikely, chance of winning the Rugby Championship, but must beat New Zealand handily and hope Argentina upset South Africa.

ALL BLACKS XV: Beauden Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett, Caleb Clarke, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith, Ardie Savea, Dalton Papali’i, Akira Iaone, Sam Whitelock (c), Brodie Retallick, Tyrel Lomax, Codie Taylor, Ethan De Groot. Reserves: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Tupou Vaa’i, Hoskins Sotutu, Finlay Christie, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Sevu Reece.

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