WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Winger Julian Savea will return from injury, forcing Ben Smith to fullback in place of Israel Dagg, in the only changes to the All Blacks lineup for the second rugby test against England at Dunedin on Saturday.
Savea missed the first test at Auckland, won 20-15 by New Zealand, because of a knee injury but is considered fit to return on the left wing. Cory Jane moves from the left to the right wing, and Smith, who played in that position at Eden Park, drops back to fullback in place of Dagg, who is being rested with knee and thigh injuries.
No. 8 Keiran Read, who has been battling concussion, has again been omitted as he works to regain aerobic fitness, and Jerome Kaino will start again in that role in his 50th test.
The All Blacks selectors under head coach Steve Hansen have resisted any temptation to make wholesale changes in response to their team's dismal and error-ridden first-test performance against an under-strength England side.
While Dagg has been battling injuries for several weeks his poor form in the first test, in which he dropped high balls and kicked poorly, would likely have recommended his replacement.
Aaron Cruden has been retained at flyhalf although he also kicked badly at Auckland and struggled to guide the All Blacks with any authority. Hansen has resisted strong calls from fans for the in-form and more creative Beauden Barrett to be given the starting role.
The All Blacks forwards, apart from Kaino, were unsually timid at Eden Park and allowed England to dictate play at breakdowns and around the gain line. The selectors have expressed confidence that, when first test rustiness has been overcome and minor skill improvements have been made, New Zealand will produce a better second test performance.
Work has been needed on a scrum which failed to match England's in the first test.
"We have worked hard on our skillsets, attitude and the detail in our game, which wasn't up to All Blacks standard last week," Hansen said.
"Our mindset this week has been all about improvement, taking ownership and responsibility for our individual roles with the aim of delivering a team performance we can all be proud of.
"We have a strong belief in what we are trying to do and I assume the English do as well. So come 7:35 on Saturday night, it's game on once again. That's what test rugby is all about, and that's why we can't wait for Saturday night to arrive."
England had the advantage last week of playing under a northern hemisphere referee who allowed them to slow the pace of the game to a crawl. The All Blacks will be determined to set a faster pace on Saturday which England will be unable to sustain.
England is expected to name a changed lineup later Thursday as several senior players, who missed the first test after taking part in the English club premiership final, return to its starting side.
New Zealand: Ben Smith, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Victor Vito, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa.
- Sports & Recreation
- Julian Savea
- Israel Dagg
- Jerome Kaino
- All Blacks