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All Blacks spring make surprising line-up change for semi-final against England

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24th October, 2019
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Scott Barrett will replace Sam Cane in the All Blacks’ backrow to add some height and bulk in the only change to their starting XV for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final against England.

The versatile Barrett will start as blindside flanker as New Zealand bid to bolster the lineout against an England line-up that is strong at the set piece.

Barrett replaced Cane in a tactical change at halftime of the All Blacks’ 46-14 quarterfinal win over Ireland last weekend.

The 25-year-old Barrett will join his brother, fullback Beauden Barrett, in the starting XV with their youngest sibling Jordie on the reserves bench.

The All Blacks topped Pool B with their 23-13 win over South Africa decisive and they have been steadily building momentum as they aim for an unprecedented third consecutive title.

“The team is exactly where we want to be, mentally and physically,” 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 due to form.

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“We’ve made some decisions around how we want to play and we’ve made that change because of it,” Hansen said.

Scott Barrett’s inclusion is to enhance their lineout and ball-carrying.

Hansen echoed comments made by England coach Eddie Jones last weekend about rugby now being more than about the starting side.

“The bench is so important in today’s game … we always talk about 23,” Hansen said.

“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 haven’t lost a game at the Rugby World Cup since an upset defeat to France in 2007, and have won all three previous meetings against England at the sport’s marquee event.

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New Zealand captain Kieran Read missed a training session earlier in the week with leg soreness but has recovered to take his place at No. 8 in a backrow featuring Ardie Savea and Scott Barrett.

New Zealand (15-1): 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.

© AAP