WELLINGTON – All Black coach Steve Hansen has rung the changes for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia at Eden Park, with the experienced trio of Ben Smith, Owen Franks and Rieko Ioane all dropped from the side.
The All Blacks were humbled 47-26 by the Wallabies last week in Perth, with the victory giving Michael Cheika’s side an opportunity to regain the symbol of trans-Tasman supremacy for the first time since 2002.
Nepo Laulala comes in for Franks at tighthead prop, while wings Smith and Ioane have been replaced by George Bridge, making his first start in his fourth Test, and Sevu Reece, who has just one previous Test cap.
With Hansen in the process of finalising his squad for the Rugby World Cup, Franks (108 Tests), Smith (79) and Ioane (26) have looked out of sorts in recent weeks, and have all dropped out of the match-day 23.
Hansen was also forced to make two other changes, with lock Scott Barrett suspended following a red card in Perth, while centre Jack Goodhue picked up a minor hamstring strain.