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The Roar


'Not the time to experiment': Ex-skipper's warning to fall on deaf ears as All Blacks tipped to make mass changes

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2nd August, 2023
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As Justin Marshall gave Eddie Jones’ side a blunt appraisal, the former All Blacks captain cautioned against Ian Foster making wholesale changes for Saturday’s Bledisloe return in Dunedin.

But, with the Bledisloe Cup locked away for a 21st straight year, the NZ Herald is reporting that Foster will make up to a dozen changes to his starting side despite Marshall’s insistence that “it’s not the time to experiment”.

The entire backline is tipped for a makeover, with Will Jordan in the frame to shift from the wing to fullback in a move that could allow Shaun Stevenson to earn a call-up on the wing.

Blues halfback Finlay Christie and Chiefs playmaker Damian McKenzie are likely to be given an opportunity in the halves, while Anton Lienert-Brown and Braydon Ennor are in the frame to form a new-look midfield.

: Damian McKenzie of the All Blacks reacts during the Bledisloe Cup match between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks, part of The Rugby Championship, at Optus Stadium on September 05, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

: Damian McKenzie of the All Blacks reacts during the Bledisloe Cup match between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks, part of The Rugby Championship, at Optus Stadium on September 05, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

Up front, Scott Barrett is set to be given a week to recharge his battery in a move that will see Sam Whitelock given a start.

Regular captain Sam Cane is set to return to the backrow and feature alongside Ardie Savea, who shapes as one of three players retained in the XV from the one that beat the Wallabies 38-7 at the MCG last Saturday.

The front-row also looks set to have a major makeover, with hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho likely to pack down alongside Nepo Laulala and the uncapped Tamaiti Williams.


There is expected to be combination of experience and youth on the bench, with Dane Coles, Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga likely to be selected, according to the NZ Herald.

The mooted changes come despite Marshall’s warning not to take the foot off the gas.

Ian Foster is tipped to make mass changes to his All Blacks side after winning the Bledisloe Cup last weekend. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Marshall pointed to their shock 2003 World Cup exit at the semi-final stage, where the All Blacks were dumped out by the Wallabies mere months after smashing them in the Bledisloe Cup as evidence of not letting momentum slip.

“The only thing I will say is be weary because I remember in 2003, if you look at our year, we walloped South Africa, we walloped Australia and then we got bitten in a semi-final of a Rugby World Cup, so you’ve just got to make sure that you’re continually improving,” the former captain told The Platform.

“This team will have to go through some hardship.

“At the moment they’ve got it all going their own way, they’re a dominant side, but at some stage, there’s going to be a team that’s really going to test them.


“That’s why I feel they just need to keep putting those players out, putting them out there, so when it comes to one of those knockout games at Rugby World Cup, and they’re having a been a bit of an off day and the opposition are having a good day, they still have this unity, composure and this confidence to say, ‘You know what, we’ll still get the job done. We will still win this game today.’”

Marshall said the runway to France was too short to be playing with fire at this point in the four-year World Cup cycle, but implored Foster to stick solid with his starting XV despite the Wallabies’ woes.

“That’s the real melon scratcher to be honest, because Australia are beaten up no doubt about it,” he said.

“They’ve got injury problems, they struggling to find the way that they want to play. You don’t expect them to come really with too much firepower given the evidence of what we saw at the weekend.

“It is a chance to give some players more game time, but I said it right at the very start before the All Blacks even ran out for their first Test match, I said they need to keep putting the same players out there.

“If you want players to get game time, bring them off the beach, let the starting 15 continue to go out there and play as a team, be a team and galvanize together. So, I’d be very reluctant to make any changes this weekend, barring injury or fatigue.


“It’s not the time to experiment.”

Justin Marshall (2nd R)has cautioned against the All Blacks making mass changes. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

While Eddie Jones said he saw enough during Bledisloe I to suggest the Wallabies were on the right track, saying “If you arrived from Mars and watched the first 20 minutes, you’d probably think the gold team was the stronger team – that’s the reality”, Marshall poured cold water on the coach’s comments.

“I just think they’re scrambling for ideas on how to break down good defensive systems,” he said.

“They’re kind of relying on individuals to spark. They’re trying to look for a sensational play out of nowhere because their game plan at the moment is really easily picked off and worked out defensively.

‘I don’t know if I agree that they were the better side in the first 20 minutes.

“I think they had a couple of moments there where they looked good, and they had the All Blacks under pressure, but then they made some poor decisions in that 20 minutes as well when [Samu] Kerevi kicked the ball away, k Carter Gordon kicked it away a few times when he shouldn’t have and it really hurt them.


“They’re a team that really is struggling for the identity and they are in a world of hurt at the moment, so it’s going to be interesting to see how they recover from where they are at the moment to try and be competitive at the World Cup.”