All Blacks head coach Ian Foster has made five changes to his starting XV for their second Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia at Eden Park on Sunday.
Beauden Barrett resumes his position at full-back after his late withdrawal last week, with Damian McKenzie dropping down to the replacements bench.
Another new All Black
The matchday 23 features the selection of another new All Black, with prop Alex Hodgman set to make his Test debut from the bench, while two other new All Blacks, lock Tupou Vaa’i and winger Caleb Clarke, are making their first Test start in their second Tests.
Hodgman is one of several changes in the matchday forwards, with hooker Dane Coles starting and Codie Taylor on the bench, while prop Nepo Laulala returns via the bench alongside Hodgman. Lock Sam Whitelock is going through head injury assessment (HIA) protocols and was unavailable for selection, so Tupou will start alongside Patrick Tuipulotu. There is also a welcome return via the bench for 36-Test Scott Barrett, after a four-month injury layoff.
In other backline changes, Anton Lienert-Brown has been named at outside centre, while Rieko Ioane will provide impact as a replacement. George Bridge, who suffered a serious pectoral injury in training on Wednesday, makes way for Clarke on the left wing.
Foster said: “Our preparation this week has been really good. It was our first Test together last weekend and while there were some aspects of our game that we were pretty excited about, especially around our set piece, we didn’t get the performance that we wanted, so there has been plenty for us to work on. We need to be smarter with our ball and more focussed defensively.
“The Bledisloe series is back to square one and starts again this weekend, which is exciting. It’s the last Test at home for us so there will also be massive excitement amongst our fans. There is everything to play for and we can’t wait.”
Auckland you beauty ☀️☀️ pic.twitter.com/5ipuqI843d
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 16, 2020
On the selection of Vaa’i and Hodgman, Foster said: “It’s a great opportunity for Tupou. We enjoyed seeing him come off the bench last weekend, he brought a lot of energy and he has settled in well.
“Alex has been impressive in the training weeks. He’s mobile and he’s been making big strides in his scrummaging, so it’s a big opportunity for him in his first Test.”
The All Blacks and Australia will be playing their 168th Test against each other. New Zealand has won 115 of those matches, Australia 44 with eight draws. The All Blacks have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003.
New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Jordie Barrett, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Jack Goodhue, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mounga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tupou Vaa’i, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Hoskins Sotutu, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Rieko Ioane, 23 Damian McKenzie
Date: Sunday, October 18
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 16:00 local (04:00 BST, 03:00 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)