23 Jun 2016

Debutants, a surprise and several changes for All Blacks

10:15 am on 23 June 2016

The All Blacks Coach Steve Hansen has included several debutants and made 12 changes for the third and final test against Wales in Dunedin, though his most left field selection appears to be at centre.

The All Blacks centre George Moala.

The All Blacks centre George Moala. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

With first choice Malakai Fekitoa still recovering from a head clash, George Moala has been preferred to Seta Taminivalu, who came off the bench in the first-two tests, to partner Ryan Crotty in the midfield.

Moala hasn't played for the All Blacks since the test against Samoa last July and was only called into the squad as injury cover.

Hansen said they want to see what Moala's got on Saturday night.

"A 100 percent fit Mala (Malakai Fekitoa) probably would have played but he's not so that gave us an opportunity to say righto we've seen a wee bit of Seta in the last couple of weeks so let's have a look at George.

All Blacks wing George Moala in action against Manu Samoa

All Blacks wing George Moala in action against Manu Samoa Photo: Photosport

Ryan Crotty and George Moala.

Ryan Crotty and George Moala. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"We were very happy with him (Moala) in Samoa and whilst he probably hasn't had the Super Rugby season he would like he's starting to come back into some form late in the piece and he's certainly trained well and we're excited about seeing him on the track."

The Highlanders loose forwards Elliot Dixon and Liam Squire are set to make their All Black debuts in front of their home crowd.

Elliot Dixon of the Highlanders.

Elliot Dixon of the Highlanders. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

New All Black Liam Squire.

New All Black Liam Squire. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Dixon will start at blindside in place of Jerome Kaino, with Squire on the bench in place of Ardie Savea.

Hansen said the debutants have impressed in training.

"Along with Ardie those boys have come in and done everything we've asked of them. Ardie's played particularly well and we now know what he can give us. With Elliot his ability to play six and seven (helps the team) and Liam's ability to play six and eight, if they can play at the quality that we're expecting them to play at then it all bodes well for us."

The other possible new cap is front rower Ofa Tu'ungafasi, who's on the bench for Saturday's match.

His fellow Blues prop Charlie Faumuina gets a rare start with Owen Franks getting a rest.

Hansen says Tu'ungafasi needs to be tested on the international stage.

Debut All Blacks L-R Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Elliot Dickson, Ardie Savea, Liam Squire, Damian McKenzie, Tom Franklin (who is only in the squad as an injury replacement to Sam Whitelock) and Seta Tamanivalu.

Ofa Tu'ungafasi (far left). Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"We need to find out if he can scrum at this level and he can play at this level. He seems to be going very well at training and it also gives us an opportunity to see if something was to go wrong with Owey (Owen Franks) can Charlie do the job for us, not only off the bench but by starting and they are two different roles."

Wing Julian Savea is back for Waisake Naholo, with Ben Smith on the right wing and Israel Dagg at fullback.

Naholo, who had a heavy workload in the first two tests, drops to the reserves.

First-five Beauden Barrett starts in Aaron Cruden's absence with Lima Sopoaga on the bench.

The All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says the new players have earned their shot and with the series wrapped up, now was the time to bring in some fresh blood.

"It's that risk and reward, the series has been won but at the same time we need to win this next test match. On the other hand we need to find out about these new players who have trained really well and we just felt the risks were minimal and the rewards were going to be fantastic for us later in the season and beyond that."

The All Blacks have an unasailable 2-nil series lead heading into Saturday night's third and final test.