BRISBANE – All Black flyhalf Lima Sopoaga will make his first Test start in more than two years after Beauden Barrett was ruled out of the final Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia on Saturday.
Barrett has been suffering from concussion symptoms since the All Blacks’ 25-24 Rugby Championship victory over the Springboks in Cape Town on October 7.
Sopoaga’s only previous Test start was on debut against South Africa in July 2015, and he has since made 11 other appearances off the bench.
The 25-year-old had been expected to start the All Blacks’ match against Argentina in Buenos Aires on September 30, while Barrett was rested, but remained in New Zealand to attend the birth of his first child.
Hansen only made one other injury-enforced change to the team that wrapped up the Rugby Championship, with Waisake Naholo coming on to the right wing for Nehe Milner-Skudder.
Milner-Skudder dislocated his shoulder during the All Blacks’ last match against South Africa.
The World Cup winner had surgery this week, and said he expected to return in seven months.
The All Blacks have retained the Bledisloe Cup for the 15th successive season after beating the Wallabies in the first two games of the Rugby Championship, but Hansen said there was still plenty at stake.
“They’ll be desperate to win as they haven’t done so for some time,” Hansen said in reference to the seven-match winning streak his side enjoys over their trans-Tasman rivals.
“For us, our goal is to never be satisfied at where we’re at, and that means it’s greater than just the outcome.
“It’s about how we play, individually and collectively as a unit. We’re always striving to get better every game, and this week is no different.”
All Black Team
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain) 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Kane Hames.
Bench: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 David Havili.