All Blacks: Sam Whitelock returns from concussion to start series decider against Ireland

David Skippers

New Zealand head coach Ian Foster has announced his team to play Ireland in the final fixture of their three-Test series at Sky Stadium in Wellington on Saturday, with Sam Whitelock returning to the starting XV.

Veteran lock Whitelock missed his country’s defeat in the second Test at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin after showing delayed concussion symptoms following their victory in the series opener at Eden Park in Auckland.

He returns to continue his second-row partnership with Brodie Retallick and it will be the 61st time the experienced duo start together in the All Blacks’ engine room.

That means Scott Barrett is back to the blindside flank – after shifting to the second-row for the second Test – while experienced tighthead prop Nepo Laulala also returns to the run-on side with Ofa Tu’ungafasi dropping down to the replacements bench.

David Havili starts at 12

In the backline, David Havili has been declared fit after missing the first two Tests due to Covid-19 and comes in at inside centre where he takes over from Quinn Tupaea. Havili is joined in midfield by Rieko Ioane, who is set to make his 50th Test appearance.

The final alteration sees Will Jordan moving up from the replacements bench to start on the right wing in place of Leicester Fainga’anuku. On the replacements bench, Dane Coles and Akira Ioane has been recalled as cover for hooker and loose forward while Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is set to make his Test debut after being named as one of the backline replacements.

“It’s tough having a loss but the tough weeks are often the most exciting,” said Foster.

“A series decider against a high-quality side is a great occasion for our growth as a team.”

New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 David Havili, 11 Sevu Reece, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Scott Barrett, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Akira Ioane, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Richie Mo’unga, 23 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

Date: Saturday, July 16
Venue: Sky Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19:05 local (08:05 BST, 07:05 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson (England), Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (Wales)

READ MORE: Legendary captain Sir Wayne Shelford slams New Zealand’s ‘horrific’ skillsets


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Planet Rugby previews the series deciding third Test between the All Blacks and Ireland in Wellington.