'Underdogs' NZ recall stars for Ireland rematch
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The All Blacks will go into their Ireland rematch as "underdogs" Saturday, claimed coach Steve Hansen, despite recalling the world champion's big names as they seek to avenge their historic loss.
Only four players remain in the starting side named Thursday for the eagerly anticipated Dublin clash from the youthful line-up that demolished Italy 68-10 last week as Hansen looks to restore pride following a 29-40 defeat by the men in green in Chicago on November 5.
The backline of that losing team has been revamped, with Israel Dagg replacing Waisake Naholo on the wing and a new centre pairing of Malakai Fekitoa and Anton Lienert-Brown.
Crucially, veteran locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock return to the second row after the pair's injury-enforced absence was keenly felt at Soldier Field.
Flyhalf Beauden Barrett, recently crowned World Rugby Player of the Year, returns along with a large group of established stars rested by Hansen for the Italy match.
The loss to Ireland was New Zealand's first in 29 meetings between the pair stretching back 111 years and snapped a record run of 18 consecutive Test wins for the All Blacks.
Hansen said there was "obvious disappointment" at the defeat and his players were keen to face Ireland again.
Never one to shy away from mind games, Hansen even suggested the back-to-back world champions would be underdogs in the Irish capital.
"We know the challenge we face from Ireland will again be massive and we are going into the game as the underdogs," he said.
"They'll be full of confidence and committed to delivering on their home patch."
Despite his comments, bookies in both New Zealand and Ireland have the All Blacks as short-priced favourites to prevent a well-drilled Ireland repeating their Windy City heroics.
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 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 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Waisake Naholo.
Date: Saturday, November 19
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Kick-off: 17.30 (17.30 GMT; 06.30 NZDT Sunday, November 20)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Ian Davies (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)