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Brisbane (Australia) (AFP)
All Blacks coach Ian Foster made major changes to his starting lineup to face the “injured beast” Argentina in Brisbane on Saturday, including a rare start to the opener for Damian McKenzie.
Only three of the starters who beat Los Pumas 39-0 on Sunday will enter the Rugby Championship fourth round game as Foster juggles an intense schedule.
“With five Tests in a row and a six-day delay between those two Argentine Tests, we were still going to make some selection changes – five Tests in a row required it,” he said.
“But the good thing is that we have a group that has focused on the same opposition over the past two weeks, so our preparation time has not been compromised.”
Normally preferred at full back, McKenzie has only started one of his 34 previous tests at the opener.
But Foster was confident the 26-year-old would take on the playmaker role he regularly fills for the Waikato Chiefs, allowing him to give Beauden Barrett a spell on the bench.
“He trained a lot there, he is sometimes substituted … he played 35 minutes last week and he has a clear understanding of his role,” said the coach.
“It’s a vote of confidence on where we think he is.”
Scrum-half TJ Perenara, full-back Jordie Barrett and winger George Bridge are the trio who will start for the second consecutive test.
Ardie Savea returns to last row and will wear the captain’s armband as part of a totally redesigned pack that features veteran Joe Moody on his first start of the year following foot surgery.
– “A smart thing to do” –
Some premium players like Brodie Retallick have undoubtedly been rested to keep them cool for the next few games against world champion Springboks.
But Foster said it also allowed him to strengthen his squad by giving some of his less experienced players a chance.
“I think it’s a smart thing to do, to give an opportunity to a larger group of people, but people have to earn that,” he said.
“The fact that people train well and contribute gave us confidence to give them a chance.”
He predicted a fierce reaction from Los Pumas to their scorecard shutout in the last test.
“We are waiting for a huge response from Argentina and we have to make sure we are prepared for that because we know what an injured beast looks like,” he said.
“If we go into this test match thinking it’s going to happen for us like last week without winning the right to have the scoreboard in our favor, then we’re in trouble.”
New Zealand (15-1):
Jordie Barrett; Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Quinn Tupaea, George Bridge; Damien McKenzie, TJ Perenara; Hoskins Sotutu, Ardie Savea (captain), Ethan Blackadder; Tupou Vaa’i, Patrick Tuipulotu; Tyrel Lomax, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Joe Moody
Replacements: Codie Taylor, George Bower, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Barrett, Luke Jacobson, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Braydon Ennor
© 2021 AFP