All Blacks make 2 changes for 2nd Wales test

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Israel Dagg

Israel Dagg (Photo: Picasa)

Fullback Israel Dagg has been recalled by the All Blacks to play his 50th test in Saturday's second test against Wales as one of two changes to New Zealand's starting lineup.

Dagg played his most-recent test against South Africa in July last year and was omitted from New Zealand's squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup because of injuries and fading form.

He returns as part of a reorganization of the All Blacks backline that played in the 39-21 first test win over Wales last weekend.

Winger Julian Savea has been dropped after continuing poor form. Waisake Naholo moves from the right wing to the left, fullback Ben Smith moves to the right wing and Dagg takes Smith's place at the back.

In the only other change, lock Sam Whitelock returns from injury to displace Luke Romano.

New Zealand continued a 63-year, 27-match winning streak against Wales with last weekend's win at Eden Park which gave it a 1-0 lead in the three test series. Wales led 21-18 after 62 minutes but New Zealand won the match with three tries in the last 18 minutes.

"Our performance in the first test was very pleasing in a number of ways, especially how we kept our composure under pressure," coach Steve Hansen said.

"However, there is an expectation that we will need to improve right across the board with better accuracy in both our attack and defence combined with more physicality and intensity.

"We are expecting Wales to come out all guns blazing, particularly after what happened in the Chiefs game (on Tuesday) so we will have to not only meet that response but go to a higher level ourselves."

Savea scored one of the All Black's five tries at Eden Park — his 39th try in 42 tests — but was replaced shortly after halftime. He has struggled to find form throughout a Super Rugby season with the Hurricanes after beginning the season short of fitness.

He drops out of the squad of 23 as New Zealand has named an unchanged bench.

Wales will name its lineup later Thursday and will have to make at least one change to its first test lineup after winger George North was ruled out of the remainder of their tour with a hamstring injury.

Head coach Warren Gatland hoped Tuesday's match against Super Rugby's Chiefs would give second string players a chance to press for test places but Wales' 40-7 loss destroyed that hope.

While the Wales lineup that played in Hamilton contained a strong core of test players and the Chiefs were substantially depleted, the tourists fell to a six tries to one defeat. None of the fringe players enhanced their test claims.

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New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Ryan Crotty, Waisake Naholo, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody.

Reserves: Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea, T.J. Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Seta Tamanivalu.

-AP

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