Sam Whitelock will captain New Zealand against Australia for this weekend’s pivotal Rugby Championship clash in Auckland with Sam Cane ruled out as the All Blacks rung the changes Thursday.
Cane has failed to recover from a head injury after leaving the field early in last week’s 39-37 win over Australia in Melbourne which secured the Bledisloe Cup.
“We’re fighting against a team we have a massive amount of respect for and who pushed us to the wire, so we have taken a whole lot of lessons from that,” said All Blacks head coach Ian Foster.
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Scott Barrett, David Havili and Quinn Tupaea will also be missing with injuries as New Zealand chase a win at Eden Park on Saturday that could secure the Rugby Championship.
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Foster has opted for a new-look back row as Ardie Savea returns at No.8 after the birth of his third child alongside flankers Dalton Papali’i and Akira Ioane.
The absence of Havili and Tupaea means there will be a new centre partnership of Jordie Barrett and Rieko Ioane.
The All Blacks will have plenty of creativity behind the pack after naming Richie Mo’unga at fly-half and Beauden Barrett at full-back.
The Rugby Championship is finely poised going into the final weekend with New Zealand and South Africa, who host Argentina in Durban later on Saturday, tied on 14 points at the top of the table.
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“It’s got the feel of a final about it, if you look at the state of the championship there are a few unknowns,” said Foster.
“We just want to make sure we go out there and put our best foot forward.”
Australia, meanwhile, recalled towering lock Cadeyrn Neville and hard-running number eight Harry Wilson as the Wallabies aim to break a 36-year curse at Eden Park.
Neville will make his first Test start since injuring a knee against England in July, while Wilson’s return will allow Rob Valetini to switch to blindside flanker as the Wallabies hunt their first win over the All Blacks in Auckland since 1986.
“It’s great to have Cadeyrn available and Harry’s been working really hard to earn another opportunity, so we’re excited for both of them,” said Australia coach Dave Rennie.
The Wallabies are looking to bounce back after the heartbreaking 39-37 defeat at Melbourne last week, won by Jordie Barrett’s controversial try after the siren.
But to do so they must end a miserable run of 22 straight defeats at Eden Park, which is expected to be a 47,000 sellout on Saturday.
“The side parked the disappointment of the last Test early in the week and we have plenty to play for in Auckland,” Rennie added.
“New Zealand supporters have an expectation that the All Blacks win at Eden Park and we’re excited to get another crack at them at their spiritual home.”
Darcy Swain suspended
The Wallabies earlier on Thursday lost Darcy Swain when the lock forward was suspended for six weeks after being cited for a reckless hit on Quinn Tupaea in Melbourne.
Prop James Slipper will captain Australia in an unchanged front row alongside hooker David Porecki and tighthead prop Allan Alaalatoa.
Scrum-half Jake Gordon again starts alongside fly-half Bernard Foley, who retains his place despite being penalised for time-wasting which led to New Zealand’s Bledisloe Cup-winning try in Melbourne.
The final round of matches on Saturday could decide the destiny of this year’s southern hemisphere Rugby Championship.
New Zealand and South Africa, who host Argentina in Durban later on Saturday, are level on 14 points at the top of the table with Australia four points behind in third.
Beauden Barrett; Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett, Caleb Clarke; Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Ardie Savea, Dalton Papali’i, Akira Ioane; Samuel Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Tyrel Lomax, Codie Taylor, Ethan de Groot
Replacements: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Tupou Vaa’i, Hoskins Sotutu, Finlay Christie, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Sevu Reece
Andrew Kellaway; Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Lalakai Foketi, Marika Koroibete; Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon; Harry Wilson, Pete Samu, Rob Valetini; Cadeyrn Neville, Jed Holloway; Allan Alaalatoa, David Porecki, James Slipper (capt)
Replacements: Folau Fainga’a, Angus Bell, Pone Fa’amausili, Nick Frost, Fraser McReight, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia