The All Blacks start two openside flankers for Bledisloe Cup opener

The All Blacks start two openside flankers for Bledisloe Cup opener

In changes from the All Blacks last outing against South Africa, Dane Coles comes in at starting hooker, with Codie Taylor in the run-on reserves. Scott Barrett returns from injury at lock for the injured Brodie Retallick; and Ardie Savea has been named at blindside flanker, in his first starting role in the 6 jersey.  Sam Cane is at openside flanker, with Matt Todd moving to the reserves. In other forward changes on the bench, Atu Moli comes in for Ofa Tuungafasi as prop cover, while Patrick Tuipulotu is lock cover.

In the backs, Aaron Smith starts at halfback, with TJ Perenara in the reserves, while Anton Lienert-Brown will make his fourth start in the 12 jersey. Ngani Laumape will provide midfield cover from the bench.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “Our preparation this week here in Perth has been very good. We can tell that it’s ‘Bledisloe One’ week as there’s a real sense of purpose in everything we do, and a real desire to do it well.

“With the extra time together, we’re starting to see an improved clarity of roles out on the training park.  We’ll need to take the confidence that comes with that clarity into the Test on Saturday and deliver a game which has high energy, high skill and great decision-making.

“The Bledisloe Cup has always been incredibly important to this team and teams before us.  It’s those teams, ourselves, our country and our many fans that inspire and drive us to want to go out and ‘re-take’ the trophy.  We’ve never felt that it’s about going out and ‘retaining’ the Cup because it’s always been about earning the right to have it.  This Saturday is no different.  Both teams will be desperate and hungry for success.”

Commenting on Australia, Hansen added: “Australia have started this Investec Rugby Championship well.  Their set piece has been very good and if we are to beat them, we’ll need to take them on at set piece time and try and take away the quality of their possession.”

Hansen has also commended Perth on making the team feel so welcome this week

“On behalf of the All Blacks, I’d like to thank the West Coast Eagles and Hale School for the use of their outstanding facilities.  I’d also like to thank the wider community of Perth for their welcome and hospitality.  We know that we have a huge number of fans here and it almost feels like we’re playing at home. We look forward to seeing all the black in the stands on Saturday.”

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