Savea back for All Blacks' record bid

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 20:32
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TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Blockbusting wing Julian Savea returns to the New Zealand line-up in one of only three changes for Saturday's world record bid.

The All Blacks face the Wallabies in Auckland.

Savea takes over from Waisake Naholo on the left wing with the other changes to the side that crushed South Africa two weeks ago coming on the bench with the recall of Aaron Cruden and Malakai Fekitoa.

Victory for the All Blacks will give them a record 18th consecutive win, eclipsing the current record for a top-tier nation of 17 - which they currently share with the Springboks and two previous New Zealand squads.

The All Blacks went through the recently completed Rugby Championship unbeaten and thrashed the Wallabies in both the home and away matches of that series but Hansen is expecting a more formidable opposition this time.

"Australia will be coming here with a lot more confidence than when we played earlier in the season," coach Steve Hansen said when announcing the line-up.

"They've made some significant changes to their game and would like nothing better to end their Southern Hemisphere Test season with a win.

"They've said they are keen to bring it on and have outlined their intentions, so the stage is set for another huge trans-Tasman battle.

"It's a challenge we're really looking forward to.

"The squad is feeling refreshed and raring to go after our return from South Africa, and we're all looking forward to what we know is a hugely-anticipated Test match at Eden Park.

"We've been focussed in our preparation this week and there's a strong resolve within the group to put in another performance we can be proud of."

Savea, with an impressive 43 tries from 48 Tests, has shown inconsistent form this year, but Hansen indicated he was refreshed after not being required in South Africa.

His recall leaves no room for Naholo in the squad with the only back replacements being Cruden, who has recovered from the groin injury that sidelined him in recent months, Fekitoa and scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow.

TJ Perenara keeps the starting scrumhalf role in place of Aaron Smith, who misses a second consecutive Test in the wake of his toilet tryst scandal when he was seen entering a disabled toilet cubicle with a woman at a busy airport.

Smith was stood down for the South Africa Test and has voluntarily withdrawn from this match.

In the forwards, there is no lock replacement and Matt Todd remains the starting openside flank role for the expected crucial battle with David Pocock, with Ardie Savea to be used as an impact player off the bench.

While the All Blacks have won their last 17 Tests, which include beating the Wallabies in the World Cup final last year, the Australians have won three of their last nine outings.

The Wallabies have a dismal record at Auckland's Eden Park where they last won a 1986 victory and have since lost 16 times to the All Blacks.

* Meanwhile, loose forward Sam Cane, wing Waisake Naholo and halfback replacement Augustine Pulu will be available to play for their respective provinces in their NPC semifinal matches this weekend.

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.

Date: Saturday, October 22
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 (17.35 AEDT; 06.30 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)