All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has sprung a surprise by picking Tom Taylor at fly-half for Saturday's Test with Australia in Wellington.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has sprung a surprise by selecting Tom Taylor at fly-half for Saturday's Test against Australia in Wellington.
New Zealand's run-on side features two injury-enforced changes from the team that started against the Wallabies in Sydney last weekend, with lock Brodie Retallick coming in for Luke Romano and Taylor replacing Aaron Cruden.
Veteran prop Tony Woodcock will celebrate a personal milestone as he makes his 100th Test appearance in the number one jersey.
There are also several changes amongst the replacements. Hooker Dane Coles returns to the matchday 23, as does fit-again prop Wyatt Crockett, while Jeremy Thrush comes onto the bench as lock cover.
Colin Slade returns to the All Blacks for the first time since 2011, replacing the injured Beauden Barrett. With Taylor and Ben Smith able to cover the midfield, Charles Piutau has been brought in as outside back cover.
Hansen is confident Taylor can make the step up to Test level.
“We want to firstly congratulate Tom on his selection in the starting XV,” he said.
“He is mentally tough and plays the game with a lot of confidence and maturity.
“These factors, along with his assured goal-kicking under pressure, has made this an easy selection. We have every faith that he will handle the occasion with aplomb.”
Hansen also congratulated Woodcock on his milestone.
“We also want to congratulate “Woody” [Tony Woodcock] on what will be his 100th Test,” he added.
“He is a hugely respected player within the group who always puts the team first. It has been business as usual for him and the team this week, but we will enjoy acknowledging his achievement with him after the game.”
Hansen expects the Wallabies to be a more dangerous opponent this weekend, after their 47-29 defeat in Sydney.
“They will be hurting after that Test and will throw everything at us,” he said.
They will be looking to play with more accuracy and intensity so, therefore, we will need to meet – or better that – with a higher level of execution right across the board, if we are to be successful.”
Meanwhile, All Black wider squad players Frank Halai (Counties Manukau), Joe Moody (Canterbury) and Brad Shields (Wellington) have been released this week to play in Week Two of the ITM Cup if required.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (capt), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Charles Piutau.
Date: Saturday, August 24
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees:Craig Joubert (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)