All Blacks to pit Lienert-Brown against Wallabies
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Centre Anton Lienert-Brown will make his debut for New Zealand on Saturday.
His selection comes as injuries force multiple changes for the second Rugby Championship Test against Australia in Wellington.
After the All Blacks' 42-8 decimation of the Wallabies in Sydney last weekend, coach Steve Hansen is expecting a "physical and high-intensity" response from the Australians.
Despite the challenge ahead, he sprung a surprise in opting for the untried Lienert-Brown to plug a midfield gap ahead of his Chiefs teammate Seta Tamanivalu who played in two Tests against Wales in June.
The 21-year-old Lienert-Brown was not on the All Blacks radar when the championship squad was named less than four weeks ago, but of the four centres originally named only Malakai Fekitoa is still standing.
Lienert-Brown will debut at inside centre, replacing Ryan Crotty who suffered a head knock last week with George Moala and Sonny Bill Williams already sidelined.
The backline shake-up also sees Ben Smith return to fullback in a direct swap with Israel Dagg who moves to the wing with Julian Savea promoted to start on the other wing.
In the forwards, prop Joe Moody returns from injury to start at loosehead prop, with Wyatt Crockett set to play his 50th Test from the bench.
One-Test hooker James Parsons is also added to the bench along with centre Tamanivalu.
"Firstly, we'd like to congratulate Anton [Lienert-Brown] on his Test selection," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. He
"had a very good Super season with strong performances throughout and we expect him to take the step up.
"We're really looking forward to seeing him play in the international arena.
"It'll be a special night for Anton on Saturday and he and his family can be proud of what he has achieved.
"We'd also like to congratulate 'Crocky' [Crockett] on what will be his 50th Test.
"That's also a special milestone for an All Black. 'Crocky' is the ultimate team man who has worked hard throughout his career.
"His attitude and performances since bouncing back from non-selection for the Rugby World Cup squad in 2011 epitomise everything you want in a team member and he can be very proud of what he has achieved."
Australia have lost the last 18-Tests they have played against New Zealand, including the World Cup Final last year, and they have not won in New Zealand since 2001.
"This Test match will tell us a lot about ourselves and Australia," Hansen said.
"There's no doubt that one of the hardest things to do in sport is to back up a big performance with another big performance.
"It's totally a mental thing, so that is something we've been working really hard on this week - getting our feet back on the ground and our attitudes right for what is going to be a really physical and demanding Test."
"As always, the expectation we have placed on ourselves is to improve in everything we do.
"Australia is a proud side and will not have been happy with their performance last week.
"As a result, we're expecting them to throw everything they've got at us. This should lead to a very exciting, physical and high-intensity Test match with the Bledisloe Cup being in the balance."
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 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Seta Tamanivalu
Date: Saturday, August 27
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19.35 (17.35 AEST; 07.35 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)