Read returns ... finally

Wed, 18 Jun 2014 18:58
Large kieran read head in hand

Kieran Read will play in his first Test of the year, after finally overcoming the concussion issues that has sidelined him for months.

Kieran Read will play in his first Test of the year, after finally overcoming the concussion issues that has sidelined him for months.

Read's inclusion in the starting XV is one of two changes to the team hat will play England in the third and final Test of the June series at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, on Saturday.

The All Blacks made just the two changes, injecting Read and Malakai Fekitoa to the starting line up as they chase a clean sweep in the series.

Coach Steve Hansen said he'd decided not to try new combinations with the series already won, as he looks to develop his preferred run-on side - who were far from perfect in winning the first two Tests 20-15 and 28-27.

"Whilst we felt we improved from the first Test to the second, there are areas of our game we want to improve on and that has been the focus for us this week," he said when naming the side.

"We enjoy playing in Hamilton and in front of a sold-out Waikato Stadium we are looking forward to producing a quality performance that we can all be proud of."

Read's return at the back of the scrum was expected after he was cleared of the concussion issues that have sidelined him for most of the past two months, while fledgling international Fekitoa earns promotion with Conrad Smith out injured.

It has been a rapid rise to stardom for the talented Fekitoa who has blossomed this year with the Highlanders after being rejected by the Blues.

After getting a taste of international rugby off the bench in the first Test he earns his first start with Smith ruled out with a broken thumb.

The return of Read, the world player of the year, sees Jerome Kaino move to the side of the scrum and Liam Messam dropping back to the bench.

Hansen's desire to improve suggests the quality rugby the All Blacks produced when they ran in three tries in the third-quarter of the second Test is the standard he wants to see for the full 80.

Also at stake for the All Blacks is equalling the record for a nation of 17 consecutive Test victories currently held by the 1965-69 All Blacks and 1997-98 Springboks.

The last time the All Blacks were on the cusp of equalling the record was when they played Australia in Brisbane two years ago and the match ended in an 18-18 draw.

In the second Test against England last week, flyhalf Beauden Barrett set a world record for never being on a losing side with his 18th win from 18 Tests.

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Liam Messam, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Ryan Crotty.

Date: Saturday, June 21
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT; 08.35 BST)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)