Aaron Smith and Sam Cane start for the All Blacks

Date published: November 18 2021 - News Desk

World-class scrum-half Aaron Smith has come straight into the All Blacks side for their clash with France on Saturday.

Smith recently joined up with the squad following the birth of his son and replaces TJ Perenara, who is dropped from the squad completely, while Ian Foster has also brought Sam Cane into the back-row.

In several changes from the 23 which played last weekend, Dane Coles will start at hooker, with Samisoni Taukei’aho coming onto the bench.

Akira Ioane bolsters back-row

George Bower and Ofa Tuungafasi come in as reserve props, Akira Ioane starts at six and Cane at seven, with Shannon Frizell coming onto the bench as loose forward cover.

In the backs, Smith starts alongside Richie Mo’unga at half-back, while Quinn Tupaea gets the nod at 12 to pair up with Rieko Ioane in the midfield, and George Bridge is on the left wing.

Brad Weber and Damian McKenzie come onto the bench, joining David Havili as the back reserves.

All Blacks head coach Foster said: “We’re really excited about this match, it’s a big statement game for us, and we know we have to respond from the Irish performance.

“It’s been an incredibly long tour but I’ve been delighted with how the players have handled it from a physical point of view. They’ve given us everything and I couldn’t be more proud of the way they have handled the length of this tour.

“But we’ve had to manage the physical and mental load for the players, so have changed things up a bit for this final Test to maximise the energy within the whole group.

“That’s not a reflection on the guys that haven’t been selected, it’s more a chance to bring some fresh players in, and that’s going to be vital for us.”

Foster said All Blacks versus France Tests were always eagerly-anticipated clashes.

“There’s a mutual respect between our two countries built over years and years. Kiwis have always loved the way the French play, there’s a flair about them that we’ve always been drawn to … they have knocked us over in some pretty big moments in history,” he added.

“They are a young, formidable team building in confidence and they’ve been targeting this match so it’s a huge way for us to finish our northern tour.”

New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Samuel Whitelock (c), 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 George Bower, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 David Havili

Date: Saturday, November 20
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Stuart Terheege (England)