Smith back, Kaino at lock

Thu, 03 Nov 2016 19:58

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Scrumhalf Aaron Smith returns at No.9 for the All Blacks in Chicago on Saturday.

The move comes New Zealand brace themselves for a physical challenge against Ireland in the opening Test of their Northern Hemisphere tour at Chicago's Soldier Field.

It will be Smith's first start since his suspension in October, after being caught having sex with a woman in an airport toilet earmarked for disabled people.

In the other significant change flank Jerome Kaino has been moved into the second row.

Kaino, 33, will partner Patrick Tuipulotu in the second row, as the World Cup champions pack down against an Ireland team bidding to end New Zealand's 18-match winning streak.

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen reshuffled his pack after injuries and absenteeism decimated his resources at lock.

Regulars Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick are both injured, while Luke Romano returned to New Zealand earlier this week after a sudden family bereavement.

The experienced Kaino, who will win his 75th cap, adds physicality to the engine room of the All Blacks pack in what Hansen is expecting to be a bruising encounter.

Elsewhere, Saturday's Test sees wing Julian Savea earn his 50th cap while Scott Barrett - younger brother of flyhalf Beauden Barrett - is poised to make his debut from the bench.

"The challenge we face from Ireland is a massive one," Hansen said.

"They're a well-coached team with quality players, they play to their strengths and they're very good at identifying and attacking the weaknesses of the opposition they face.

"We anticipate them using some special plays that we haven't seen before, as well as bringing a very physical, 'in-your-face' attitude and a structured kicking game."

Anticipation of the physical challenge had "created a good edge in our group", Hansen added.

"I'm most interested in seeing what we'll bring to the contest because, like us, they too have weaknesses and there'll be a need to bring our own physicality, and structures to take the game to them for the full 80 minutes."

"With this being the first game of the four-match tour, it gives us an opportunity to take our game to the next level."

Hansen added: "We want to congratulate Scott on being selected in the matchday 23 for the first time.

"It will be special day for him and the entire Barrett family, including his two brothers who are touring with him.  Also, we want to congratulate Julian on reaching 50 Tests. is a significant achievement and again he and his family can be rightly proud of everything he has achieved in the black jersey."

He said that returning to Chicago for only the second time in history has, once again, been a great experience for the All Blacks.

"The team have embraced the sporting atmosphere and the culture of the city and we really appreciate the way we've been looked after by the people of Chicago.

"As far as our preparation for Saturday has gone, we have knuckled down and done some great work throughout the week."

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 George Moala, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Jerome Kaino, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.

Date: Saturday, November 5
Venue: Soldier Field, Chicago
Kick-off: 15.00 US CDT (20.00 GMT & UK time; 09.00, Sunday, November 6 NZ time)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)