WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Jordie Barrett won the nod to start at fullback in an injury enforced backline reshuffle as New Zealand brace for an Australian backlash in their Rugby Championship clash in Auckland on Saturday.
With wing Rieko Ioane ruled out, Waisake Naholo moves across to the left wing to accommodate Ben Smith on the right with Barrett, not required last week in Sydney, runs on at fullback for his third Test start. His inclusion comes just a week after coach Steve Hansen said the 21-year-old needed "a bit of reflection" time away from the Test arena.
The one other backline change sees the pocket-rocket Ngani Laumape take the 12 jersey to replace Ryan Crotty who was concussed when the All Blacks beat the Wallabies 38-13 in Sydney last week. The starting forward pack is unchanged - with tighthead prop Owen Franks to play his milestone 100th Test - but on the bench Ofa Tuungafasi comes in for Tim Perry.
Another win to New Zealand will give them the Bledisloe Cup, contested annually between the two countries, for a 16th straight year. They will also move a step closer to a sixth title in seven years in the Rugby Championship which also involves South Africa and Argentina.
Although the final score in the first Test of the series portrayed an overwhelming All Blacks victory, not everything went according to plan and they trailed 6-5 at half-time. When naming the second Test side on Thursday, coach Steve Hansen said he expected a much more determined Australian unit to take the field in the return encounter.
"The team is fully aware that it has the opportunity to close out the Bledisloe Cup series on Saturday. In saying that, we know that there'll be a massive response from Australia following their performance last week," he said. "Not only are we excited by this challenge, but we're looking forward to responding ourselves with a better performance.
"Our preparation this week - both physically and mentally - has been all about getting ready to do that. We'll be looking to execute to an even higher level and play at an intensity that will challenge ourselves and our opponent."
Auckland's Eden Park has not been kind to Australia in recent years. They have lost all 17 Tests they have played there since 1986, including the most recent four by an average of 27 points, and the All Blacks have won their past 41 Tests at the venue since last losing to France 23-20 in 1994. Hansen has also paid tribute to Franks, the ninth All Blacks centurion and who plays his 100th Test a week after Sam Whitelock joined the special club.
"He has started 90 of his 99 Tests to date, which is an incredible achievement for a tighthead prop, one of the most physically demanding positions on the footy field," Hansen said. "His professionalism and dedication to improvement has been an inspiration to other All Blacks for quite some time now."
🎥 "We are going to be playing a wounded beast" - Ian Foster takes a close look at the second #BledisloeCup Test.— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) August 22, 2018
🎟️ While the second Test at @edenparknz is sold out, tickets are still available to the Test against South Africa in Wellington at https://t.co/CwLLq4umPH pic.twitter.com/FApJf9xwze
Franks already holds one notable record having played more games than any other player in Test history without scoring a try.
New Zealand tea, (15-1): Jordie Barrett; Ben Smith, Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape, Waisake Naholo; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (capt), Sam Cane, Liam Squire; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Replacements: Nathan Harris, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown.AFP