Auckland - Rising
star Rieko Ioane has replaced blockbusting wing Julian Savea while
Kieran Read returns as captain in the All Blacks side to face the
British and Irish Lions in Auckland on Saturday.
The elevation of the 20-year-old Ioane, whose Test experience
consists of just two appearances off the bench - against Italy and
France last year - is one of three changes to the starting XV when the
All Blacks whipped Samoa last week.
Read returns after being sidelined for eight weeks with a broken
thumb and Ryan Crotty has recovered from rib damage to partner Sonny
Bill Williams in the centres.
The inclusion of Auckland Blues flyer Ioane comes as the All Blacks
target a fast, wide game against a Lions side intent on shutting them
down with a rush defence while attacking with a mix of power charging
and smart kicking.
"It'll be a battle of contrasting styles which makes it an intriguing
Test to prepare for and to be part of," coach Steve Hansen said when
naming his side on Thursday.
"It'll be a physical Test but, just as importantly, it will be a mental test."
Hansen said it was particularly pleasing to have both imposing
captain Read, and the tactically astute Crotty back in the line-up.
"They've both been on target to return for this game all the way
through, are both in great shape and, together with the rest of the
squad, they're really excited at what's ahead of us.
"This was a really tough team to pick because there were a number of
players in great form vying for positions. But in the end the three
selectors felt this was the best combination."
Savea, with 46 tries from 53 Tests, was quiet during the All Blacks
12-try fest against Samoa which appeared to count him while Hansen was
impressed by the industrious Ioane, who scored a try in the Blues win
over the Lions.
"His outstanding form
throughout the season this year, including against the Lions, has earned
him his start on the wing," the coach said.
Savea does not even make the match-day 23 while younger brother Ardie
Savea and Anton Lienert-Brown, who started against Samoa in place of
Read and Crotty, will be on the bench for the first Test.
Read has played little rugby this year, after joining the Super Rugby
season late after off-season wrist surgery, and then playing only three
games before he broke his thumb.
Saturday's first Test will played at Eden Park where the All Blacks have won 37 consecutive Tests since 1994.
The Lions, who have won only won one of 11 previous series in New
Zealand, last played at Eden Park in 2005 when the All Blacks won 38-15.
15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden/Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown
British & Irish Lions