Barrett to start at flyhalf for All Blacks vs Wallabies

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Beauden Barrett

Beauden Barrett (Photo: Andre Chalmers)

SYDNEY (AP) — Beauden Barrett's outstanding form for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby has earned him the starting role at flyhalf in the New Zealand team to play Australia in Saturday's opening Rugby Championship test at Sydney's Olympic stadium.

Barrett takes over from Aaron Cruden, who started in the first two of New Zealand's three tests against Wales in June. Cruden missed the third test with injury, handing Barrett a rare opportunity to start in the No. 10 jersey.

Barrett was a key figure in that match, won 46-6 by New Zealand, and played a vital role for the Hurricanes as they won their first Super Rugby title.

Also on Thursday, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika reunited his World Cup final starting halves of Bernard Foley and Will Genia. As well as Genia, fellow France-based stars Adam Ashley-Cooper, on the wing, and 102-test inside center Matt Giteau have earned recalls after missing Australia's 3-0 series loss to England in June.

Ben McCalman joins Michael Hooper and David Pocock in a new-look back row.

New Zealand has won seven of 15 matches at the Olympic stadium since 2001. Australia beat New Zealand 27-19 last year in Sydney and the teams played to a 12-12 draw in 2014.

Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa will combine in midfield for the All Blacks after injuries ruled out Sonny Bill Williams and George Moala. Williams suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon while playing for the New Zealand sevens team at the Rio Olympics while Moala, who played in the third test against Wales, damaged knee ligaments in training on Tuesday.

"This test match will be another stepping stone in the re-establishment of this group on the international stage and we know that Australia will throw everything at us, which is what test rugby is all about," New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said. "With more than 800 test caps of experience in our match-day 23, I'm confident we have the experience to deal with the challenge."

The All Blacks have spent longer than usual in Sydney to prepare for the match, though their buildup was still constricted by the involvement of New Zealand teams in the Super Rugby playoffs. Australia had only one team in the playoffs — the ACT Brumbies, who were knocked out in the first round — and have been able to use the extra time to prepare for the defense of the Rugby Championship title.

"This week has been about getting our preparation and attitude dead right and therefore there's an expectation that this group will bring real intensity, physicality and a high level of skill execution come Saturday," Hansen said.

New Zealand has held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003. Australia won the Rugby Championship last year.

In the other tournament opener on the weekend, South Africa hosts Argentina at Nelspruit.

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Australia: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, David Pocock, Michael Hooper, Ben McCalman, Scott Fardy, Rob Simmons, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (captain), Scott Sio. Reserves Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Allan Alaalatoa, Dean Mumm, Scott Fardy, Nick Phipps, Matt Toomua, Rob Horne.

New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Ryan Crotty, Waisake Naholo, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Kane Hames, Charlie Faumuina, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, T.J. Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Julian Savea.

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