The All Blacks team to face the Wallabies in the opening Bledisloe Cup match in the Rugby Championship has been named, and after much speculation, Hurricanes star Beauden Barrett has been picked to start at number ten. The two teams meet in Sydney on Saturday.
The other news in the matchday 23 is that Chiefs prop Kane Hames comes onto the bench as an injury replacement for Joe Moody. If he takes to the field on Saturday, he will become the sixth new All Black in 2016.
Kickoff on Saturday 20 August at 20:05 local, 07:05 ART, 10:05 GMT, 12:05 SAST, 22:05 NZST
NEW ZEALAND TEAM (Test caps in brackets):
1. Wyatt Crockett (48), 2. Nathan Harris (4), 3. Owen Franks (80), 4. Brodie Retallick (50), 5. Samuel Whitelock (75), 6. Jerome Kaino (69), 7. Sam Cane (34), 8. Kieran Read – captain (87), 9. Aaron Smith (50), 10. Beauden Barrett (39), 11. Waisake Naholo (6), 12. Ryan Crotty (18), 13. Malakai Fekitoa (15), 14. Ben Smith (51), 15. Israel Dagg (51)
Reserves: 16. Codie Taylor (5), 17. Kane Hames, 18. Charlie Faumuina (36), 19. Liam Squire (1), 20. Ardie Savea (2), 21. TJ Perenara (19), 22. Aaron Cruden (39), 23. Julian Savea (43)
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “The selectors are very happy with the 23 selected for this Test match and we’re looking forward to seeing them play. With more than 800 Test caps of experience in our matchday 23, I’m confident we have the experience to deal with the challenge.”
“We’re all really excited about this first Investec Rugby Championship Test match. It’s against one of our most respected rivals and the Championship itself is one of the best competitions in the world. It produces an exciting brand of rugby and world-class players, which both teams have.
Barrett’s selection ahead of the previously favoured Cruden is due to his sublime form in both Super Rugby, and when coming off the bench against Wales earlier this year.
ALL BLACKS vs WALLABIES – Facts and Stats [via opta]
– The All Blacks and Australia have played each other 155 times, with 106 wins to the All Blacks and 42 to Australia, with seven draws.
– The Wallabies have not held the Bledisloe Cup since 2002, with the All Blacks winning or retaining the trophy 13 times since then.
-The All Blacks have lost just one of their last 13 against Australia (W10, D2); their 10 victories in that run have come by an average margin of 16 points.
– Steve Hansen’s side have won their last 11 on the bounce by an average margin of 27 points; only South Africa have managed to finish within 10 points of the All Blacks in that time.
– Jerome Kaino will play his 70th Test match on Saturday. He is the most capped blindside flanker of all time.
– The All Blacks head in to the opening Bledisloe Cup Test on the back of a three-nil Steinlager Series win over Wales in June.
– Australia have lost their last four Tests in a row and have not lost five on the bounce since a run of seven consecutive defeats in 2005; the fifth defeat in that run came against New Zealand.
– Julian Savea has scored 39 tries in 43 games for New Zealand, and one more try would make him just the fifth All Black to reach 40 Test tries (Doug Howlett – 49, Christian Cullen – 46, Joe Rokocoko – 46 & Jeff Wilson – 44)
– The All Blacks have held The Bledisloe Cup since 2003.