Scott Barrett into All Blacks backrow for England semifinal
TOKYO (AP) — Scott Barrett will replace Sam Cane in the backrow to add some height and bulk in the only change to New Zealand's starting XV for Saturday's Rugby World Cup semifinal against England.
The versatile Barrett will start on the blindside flank as the All Blacks bid to bolster the lineout against an England lineup that is strong at the set piece.
Barrett replaced Cane in a tactical change at halftime in New Zealand's 46-14 quarterfinal win over Ireland last weekend.
He will join his brother, fullback Beauden Barrett, in the starting XV. Another brother, Jordie Barrett, is on the reserves bench.
The All Blacks topped Pool B here, opening with a 23-13 win over South Africa, and has been steadily building momentum in its bid for a third consecutive title.
"The team is exactly where we want to be, mentally and physically," New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen said. "The word 'pressure' is bandied around quite readily, however, that pressure is always there. It's about how you handle that in the moment and not getting distracted by the past or the future."
Hansen said Cane's move to the reserves was "not on form ... (he's) playing lovely rugby."
"We've made some decisions around how we want to play, and we've made that change because of it," Hansen said. Referring to Scott Barrett, he added: "Obvious thing, he's a lineout forward. He's a ball carrier ... enhances our ball-carrying ability."
Hansen also echoed comments made by England coach Eddie Jones last weekend about rugby now being more than 15-man starting side.
"The bench is so important in today's game ... we always talk about 23," Hansen said. "You need 23 to get the job done. There's still a thought process where the best players always start. That's not always the case. Some guys are better finishers than starters. We're fortunate we've got some big hitters on the bench. They'll get a great opportunity."
New Zealand hasn't lost a game at the Rugby World Cup since an upset defeat to France in 2007, and has won all three previous meetings against England at the sport's marquee event.
"We've arrived at this point with vastly different experiences from previous Rugby World Cups," Hansen said. "No doubt, those experiences will resurface throughout the week and even in the game itself."
England's extra-time win over Australia in the 2003 final remains the northern hemisphere's only World Cup title.
New Zealand captain Kieran Read missed a training session earlier in the week because of a leg soreness but has recovered to take his place at No. 8 in a backrow featuring Ardie Savea and Scott Barrett.
New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (captain), Ardie Savea, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Angus Ta'avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Cane, T.J. Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett.