25 Oct 2018

McKenzie beats out Barrett for Bledisloe start

3:03 pm on 25 October 2018

Damian McKenzie has been handed a chance to stake his claim for a starting berth in the All Blacks.

Damian McKenzie in action against France.

Damian McKenzie in action against France. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Used mostly off the bench in his 19 tests for New Zealand, McKenzie has been named to start at fullback for Saturday's third Bledisloe Cup test against Australia in Japan.

The livewire Chiefs utility has beaten out Hurricanes youngster Jordie Barrett for the role, with Ben Smith again moving to the right wing as Waisake Naholo misses out on the match-day 23 altogether.

The other notable selection also comes in the backs, with TJ Perenara handed a rare start at halfback, meaning Aaron Smith drops to the bench.

In the forwards, several key players are set to return from injury.

Both prop Joe Moody and flanker Liam Squire have been named to start, while lock Brodie Retallick and prop Nepo Laulala will come off the bench.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the Test was the perfect way for the All Blacks to kick off their end of year tour.

"We'll be up against a good Australian team and they'll be desperate to win, but so are we.

"We know that they'll come with a lot of passion and physicality, but our focus this week has been about us and what we want to bring - intensity, skill and a triple threat game.

"Being well prepared, clear in our roles and excited about the opportunity in playing this one-off Test against Australia in Japan, will be a good start in achieving a quality performance."

All Blacks TJ Perenara keeps an eye on the scrum during a test against Australia in 2017.

All Blacks TJ Perenara keeps an eye on the scrum during a test against Australia in 2017. Photo: PhotoSport

The All Blacks have already wrapped up the Bledisloe Cup for another year, winning both their Rugby Championship matches against the Wallabies.

Saturday's match will be the 50th All Blacks test for starting midfielder Sonny Bill Williams.

A test against Japan in Tokyo next weekend will follow, before New Zealand open the UK leg of their tour with a much anticipated clash against England in London on November 10.

Hansen said it was great to have Moody, Laulala, Squire and Retallick, as well as flanker Matt Todd, back.

"As well as being world-class rugby players, they also add a lot of experience to the team, both on and off the track. We look forward to seeing them play again.

"The Test match will provide us with another great opportunity to put into practise what we have learnt throughout our recent Tests in the Rugby Championship, and grow our game in the first Test of what will be an exciting Northern Tour."

ALL BLACKS (caps in brackets)

1. Joe Moody

2. Codie Taylor (38)

3. Owen Franks (103)

4. Samuel Whitelock (105)

5. Scott Barrett (25)

6. Liam Squire (20)

7. Ardie Savea (31)

8. Kieran Read - captain (114)

9. TJ Perenara (51)

10. Beauden Barrett (69)

11. Rieko Ioane (20)

12. Sonny Bill Williams (49)

13. Ryan Crotty (41)

14. Ben Smith (73)

15. Damian McKenzie (19)

16. Nathan Harris (18)

17. Karl Tu'inukuafe (9)

18. Nepo Laulala (13)

19. Brodie Retallick (71)

20. Matt Todd (14)

21. Aaron Smith (79)

22. Richie Mo'unga (4)

23. Anton Lienert-Brown (30)