Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has selected Jordan Petaia on the wing for the first Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland, otherwise sticking firm with players who shone against France, while finding no place in his 23 for Quade Cooper.
Petaia’s first appearance in 2021 is one of two changes to an all-new back three, with Andrew Kellaway earning his first start on the wing, with Tom Banks named at fullback. The two wing changes were forced with Marika Korobiete ruled out after being one of three players who broke curfew with a drinking session that left their teammates angry.
The Wallabies’ other winger from the third Test v France, Filipo Daugunu, suffered an injury early in that game.
The rest of the backline remains unchanged from the one that started in the deciding French Series Test win in Brisbane with Queensland number nine Tate McDermott retaining his place alongside Noah Lolesio in the halves. Jake Gordon will back up McDermott with Nic White missing out despite travelling with the squad.
Lolesio shapes up against Richie Mo’unga who was picked at No.10 over Beauden Barrett for the All Blacks.
Hunter Paisami will partner Len Ikitau in the midfield for Australia.
The run-on front row will be James Slipper, Brandon Paenga-Amosa Allan Alaalatoa with Taniela Tupou to be unleashed off the bench.
Rob Valetini and Harry Wilson return to the starting side at blindside flanker, joining Michael Hooper in the back row.
Mo’unga started at No.10 for the first Test of the campaign against Tonga before Barrett replaced him for the first of two Tests against Fiji. Mo’unga got the job again for the second Test and has retained it for this match.
The starting front row remains intact from the most recent Test with loosehead prop George Bower, hooker Codie Taylor and tighthead Nepo Laulala first choice ahead of props Karl Tu’inukuafe and Angus Ta’avao, and hooker Dane Coles.
Brodie Retallick returns to start alongside Samuel Whitelock at lock.
Ardie Savea has been named at No.8, Dalton Papalii at No.7 and Akira Ioane at No.6 with Luke Jacobson providing loose forward cover.
David Havili and Anton Lienert-Brown combine in the centres with Rieko Ioane moving to the left wing, Sevu Reece to right and Damian McKenzie at fullback, with Jordie Barrett and brother Beauden among those on the bench.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) August 4, 2021
All Blacks coach Ian Foster said props Joe Moody and Ofa Tuungafasi weren’t considered for selection as they return from injuries, while the selectors will ease back Will Jordan after a hamstring strain.
“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. The Cup isn’t ours; we have to go out and win it again. We can’t wait for the weekend.”
The Wallabies are set to name their team at 2.30am AEST, after delaying the announcement from 10.30am. Missing will be winger Marika Korobiete, one of three members of the squad stood down for drinking beyond curfew last weekend. All eyes will be on Dave Rennie to see if he names recently recalled Quade Cooper into the 23.
All Blacks centre Anton Lienert-Brown said he expected Australia to be feeling strong after beating France in their recent series.
“They will be confident,” he told stuff.nz. “They won the series [against France] and played pretty well. We know they are going to be physical and they are going to want to outwork us.
“There are not a lot of things that are going to surprise us but we know they are going to be up for this game and we have got to match them physically.”
The All Blacks were less troubled in beating a weakened Tonga and Fiji twice, than Australia were in the French battle.
“They have played in close matches and the three games we played were not as close. But we have got a lot of experience in this group, and a lot of boys who have played big games and that all counts as well.”
The All Blacks are smarting from their 2020 campaign, where they only won half of their matches.
“Last year for us was not good enough,” he said. “It is not the All Blacks standards, so we want to be better and we are driven to be better. This is a massive challenge for us to start in the right way.”
Eden Park will host the opening two Tests over the next two weekends, with a change in dates due to COVID restrictions. Sky Stadium in Wellington was due to host the third Test on August 28.
The third match will now be played at Optus Stadium in Perth on that date, a week lagter than first scheduled.
All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith will play his 100th Test on Saturday and said the back-to-back games at the team’s fortress, where they haven’t lost to the Wallabies since 1986 or anyone since 1994, was something they had to take advantage of.
“I’ve never had it before. We’ve got to make the most of that opportunity,” Smith told reporters.
“That puts things in our favour very well.
“But the way the Australians are playing, the way I know Dave Rennie coaches, they’re not going to worry about that. It’s a big opportunity for them to make a statement.
“Eden Park doesn’t make you play any better, but knowing that the stadium is full, knowing the history of that field, knowing the standards that Eden Park demands … it’s good pressure.”
Smith said the All Blacks were in tune after the Pasifika series
“We put in lot of hard work, built some great connections, and started building some things around our game,” Smith said.
“We got a really good test from Fiji physically which was great. It’s something we’re going to need going forward.
“We’ve had that break at home, and come in refreshed for a big couple of months. It’s still unknown how that all looks but we know we’ve got two weeks of Bledisloe rugby, and that’s bloody exciting.
“We love that cup. It’s no one’s at the moment, and we’ve got to go out and earn it. You can really tell in our preparation it’s in the back of everyone’s minds. You know it’s a big game when it’s sitting there and bubbling away.
“I love that feeling. I love getting ready for a big game, and there’s been a real edge around the boys knowing there’s a big one coming.”
Foster praised Smith ahead of his milestone appearance.
“He’s a special man, he’s achieved so much in the black jersey and has been an iconic player for us over the last decade,” Foster said. “We know it’ll be a special night for him, his wife Teagan and his family.”
1. James Slipper (103 Tests)
2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa (12 Tests)
3. Allan Alaalatoa (46 Tests)
4. Darcy Swain (3 Tests)
5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (28 Tests)
6. Rob Valetini (7 Tests)
7. Michael Hooper (c) (108 Tests)
8. Harry Wilson (8 Tests)
9. Tate McDermott (5 Tests)
10. Noah Lolesio (5 Tests)
11. Andrew Kellaway (2 Tests)
12. Hunter Paisami (9 Tests)
13. Len Ikitau (2 Tests)
14. Jordan Petaia (8 Tests)
15. Tom Banks (14 Tests)
16. Jordan Uelese (13 Tests)
17. Angus Bell (6 Tests)
18. Taniela Tupou (28 Tests)
19. Matt Philip (12 Tests)
20. Fraser McReight (1 Test)
21. Jake Gordon (8 Tests)
22. Matt To’omua (57 Tests)
23. Reece Hodge (46 Tests)
All Blacks team (Tests)
1. George Bower (3)
2. Codie Taylor (58)
3. Nepo Laulala (31)
4. Brodie Retallick (83)
5. Samuel Whitelock (125) – captain
6. Akira Ioane (4)
7. Dalton Papalii (5)
8. Ardie Savea (50)
9. Aaron Smith (99)
10. Richie Mo’unga (24)
11. Rieko Ioane (37)
12. David Havili (5)
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (50)
14. Sevu Reece (10)
15. Damian McKenzie (30)
16. Dane Coles (76)
17. Karl Tu’inukuafe (18)
18. Angus Ta’avao (16)
19. Scott Barrett (42)
20. Luke Jacobson (5)
21. Brad Weber (9)
22. Beauden Barrett (91)
23. Jordie Barrett (25)