Retallick returns for NZ, Petaia to Wallabies in 1st test
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — All Blacks head coach Ian Foster will finally unleash what he believes to be his strongest team in Saturday’s first Bledisloe Cup rugby test against Australia.
Foster tinkered with his lineup in July test matches against Tonga and Fiji, naming something close to his strongest available team in the second test against Fiji two weeks ago.
The team named by Foster on Thursday has three personnel and two key positional changes from the one which most-recently played against Fiji.
Foster has named Rieko Ioane on the left wing, forcing Sevu Reece to move across the right wing and displacing prolific try-scorer Will Jordan, who has a slight hamstring strain.
Dalton Papalii will start his sixth test on the openside flank, causing Ardie Savea to move to No. 8 in a backrow still unsettled by the absence through injury of regular captain Sam Cane.
Brodie Retallick, who has been working hard to regain test form after spending two years in Japan, finally is reunited with Sam Whitelock in the starting second row. Lock Scott Barrett drops to the bench alongside brothers Jordie and Beauden.
Meanwhile, Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has named Jordan Petaia in place of Markia Koroibete and Harry Wilson is in for Isi Naisarani in his lineup for Saturday's match. Koroibete and Naisarani along with Pone Fa’amuasili were suspended for the match for breaching team protocol in a late-night drinking session.
Petaia is joined on the wings by Andrew Kellaway, who replaces the injured Filipo Daugunu, while Wilson will start in a backrow also comprising Lachie Swinton and captain Michael Hooper.
“As a group we couldn’t be more excited about the challenge of taking on New Zealand at Eden Park, a place they’re expected to win whenever they play there,” Rennie said. “We’ve had a strong week on the training field and the team is in good shape heading to Auckland.”
The All Blacks have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003 and haven’t lost to Australia at Auckland's Eden Park since 1986.
Foster again has favored Richie Mo’unga over Beauden Barrett at flyhalf and Damian McKenzie at fullback over Jordie Barrett.
George Bower has retained the starting role at loosehead prop in the absence of the injured Joe Moody and ahead of the more experienced Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Foster has made a contentious call in preferring Akira Ioane on the blindside flank. Steve Hansen, Foster’s predecessor as head coach, called out Ioane for a lack of work ethic and discipline in a rare public criticism of a All Blacks player.
Scrumhalf Aaron Smith will play his 100th test Saturday in the first of two Bledisloe Cup tests over consecutive weekends at Eden Park.
“He’s a special man,” Foster said of Smith. “He’s achieved so much in the black jersey and has been an iconic player for us over the last decade.”
Saturday’s match will be a major test for the All Blacks and for Foster, who has yet to win the full support of New Zealand fans after succeeding Hansen. He had only a 50% win record in his first season and presided over the All Blacks’ first-ever loss to Argentina.
New Zealand’s heavy wins over Tonga and Fiji last month were expected and were not a major test of the team or coach.
“There is huge excitement in our group at what lies ahead this weekend,” Foster said. “There is such a huge history with the Bledisloe Cup. The rivalry between the All Blacks and Australia goes back a long, long way, and it’s always a massive contest.”
New Zealand: Damian McKenzie, Sevu Reece, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Ardie Savea, Dalton Papalii, Akira Ioane, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, George Bower. Reserves: Dane Coles, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Angus Ta’avao, Scott Barrett, Luke Jacobson; Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett.
Australia: Tom Banks, Jordan Petaia, Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami, Andrew Kellaway, Noah Lolesio, Tate McDermott; Harry Wilson, Michael Hooper (captain), Rob Valetini, Lukhan Salkaia-Loto, Darcy Swain, Allan Alaalatoa, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, James Slipper. Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Matt Philip, Fraser McReight, Jake Gordon, Matt To’omua, Reece Hodge.
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