New Zealand makes changes for 2nd Lions test
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Rugby league convert Ngani Laumape is in line for a test debut from the bench in an All Blacks team containing two player changes and one positional switch for Saturday's second test against the British and Irish Lions.
Winger Waisake Naholo and center Anton Lienert-Brown have been promoted to the starting 15, while Israel Dagg will move from wing to fullback following injuries to fullback Ben Smith and center Ryan Crotty.
Smith suffered a concussion and Crotty a hamstring strain during last weekend's first test at Auckland, which the All Blacks won 30-15.
Naholo will play on the right wing in his 13th test and Lienert-Brown will combine in midfield with former league star Sonny Bill Williams.
Laumape, who played for the Warriors in the National Rugby League, is named on the bench.
Both Naholo and Laumape had starring roles in matches between their Super Rugby teams and the Lions. Naholo scored two tries in the Highlanders' win over the tourists and Laumape scored a try for the Hurricanes in Tuesday's 31-31 draw.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen expressed confidence in the newcomers' ability to cope with the pressure of the second test of the three-match series.
"Whilst it's disappointing to lose both Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty, it creates an opportunity for others," Hansen said. "Izzy (Dagg) is a world-class back three player as is Anton in the midfield and both Waisake and Ngani are coming into the test side following outstanding performances against the Lions for their respective Super franchises."
Hansen has named an unchanged forward pack after the All Blacks gained an advantage up front over the Lions in Auckland. But he expected an improved performance from the Lions in Wellington and said the All Blacks would also have to improve.
"We're aware the British and Irish Lions have their backs to the wall and will chuck everything at us to keep themselves alive in the series," he said. "They are a quality side who we respect immensely.
"In reality, last week's test could've gone either way had they taken more of their chances. Our job will be to make sure that we shut down their counter-attack better than we did last weekend and at the same time, win the critical moments across the 80 minutes."
New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Waisake Naholo, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody.
Replacements: Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Ngani Laumape.