Wellington - The
All Blacks will go into their Ireland rematch as "underdogs" on Saturday,
claimed coach Steve Hansen, despite recalling the world champion's big
names as they seek to avenge their historic loss.
Only four players remain in the starting side named Thursday for the
eagerly anticipated Dublin clash from the youthful line-up that
demolished Italy 68-10 last week as Hansen looks to restore pride
following a 40-29 defeat by the men in green in Chicago on November 5.
The backline of that losing team has been revamped, with Israel Dagg
replacing Waisake Naholo on the wing and a new centre pairing of Malakai
Fekitoa and Anton Lienert-Brown.
Crucially, veteran locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock return to
the second row after the pair's injury-enforced absence was keenly felt
at Soldier Field.
Flyhalf Beauden Barrett, recently crowned World Rugby player of the
year, returns along with a large group of established stars rested by
Hansen for the Italy match.
The loss to Ireland was New Zealand's first in 29 meetings between
the pair stretching back 111 years and snapped a record run of 18
consecutive Test wins for the All Blacks.
Hansen said there was "obvious disappointment" at the defeat and his players were keen to face Ireland again.
Never one to shy away from mind games, Hansen even suggested the
back-to-back world champions would be underdogs in the Irish capital.
"We know the challenge we face from Ireland will again be massive and we are going into the game as the underdogs," he said.
"They'll be full of confidence and committed to delivering on their home patch."
Despite his comments, bookies in both New Zealand and Ireland have
the All Blacks as short-priced favourites to prevent a well-drilled
Ireland repeating their Windy City heroics.
15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 T.J. Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Waisake Naholo