Unsatisfied All Blacks pull major backline surprises
HURRICANES pair Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape have won surprise inclusions for the second Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland, creating an All Blacks record in the process.
Coach Steve Hansen was forced into both changes following injuries to Rieko Ioane (hamstring) and inside centre Ryan Crotty (concussion) during the 38-13 hammering of Australia in Sydney.
Ioane was expected to make way for specialist winger Nehe Milner-Skudder but Hansen has restored the raw talent of 21-year-old Jordie Barrett at fullback, prompting a back three shuffle.
Ben Smith shifts to the right wing, pushing in-form Highlanders teammate Waisake Naholo, 27, to the left, creating the oldest combined wing pairing in All Blacks Test history. Smith, 32, is the oldest winger.
In contrast, the midfield is the least experienced - with eight combined caps - since Isaia Toeava and Sam Tuitupou combined against Argentina 12 years ago.
Anton Lienert-Brown is unfortunate to remain on the bench, having impressed for 68 minutes alongside rookie outside centre Jack Goodhue when replacing Crotty in Sydney.
It is a change of fortune for powerhouse ball runner Laumape, who makes his second Test start.
The first was a starring role in the 15-15 third Test draw last year against the British and Irish Lions.
He has struggled to nail down a Test berth since and missed selection in the initial Rugby Championship squad, with Hansen critical of his communication skills.
However, injuries to Sonny Bill Williams and Crotty have earned a reprieve for the former Warriors NRL back.
The only other change to Hansen's squad is on the bench, where prop Ofa Tuungafasi returns from a rib injury to replace last week's debutant Tim Perry. It is the same pack which dominated the Wallabies, most glaringly in the set pieces.
Prop Owen Franks will become the ninth All Black to play 100 Tests and can mark the occasion by locking the Bledisloe Cup away for a 16th straight year.
Hansen said the Wallabies will fight desperately at an Eden Park venue that has become a graveyard for them since 1986.
"They'll also be stinging from a stumbling second-half display in Sydney," he said.
"We know that there'll be a massive response from Australia following their performance last week," Hansen said.
"Not only are we excited by this challenge, but we're looking forward to responding ourselves with a better performance."
ALL BLACKS: Jordie Barrett, Ben Smith, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Waisake Naholo, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (capt), Sam Cane, Liam Squire, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody. Res: Nathan Harris, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown.