McKenzie at fullback, Williams back for All Blacks

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Damian McKenzie will have his first Test start this weekend, with the smiling assassin named at fullback in a new-look All Blacks side.

McKenzie has played just twice for the All Blacks, coming off the bench both times, but coach Steve Hansen has given the 21-year-old a big show of faith in putting him at 15.

His is one of six changes to the starting side from the team that drew with the Lions in the final Test in June, and among nine changes across the matchday 23.

The utility's selection is one of plenty in the back line, with just Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett remaining from that third Lions series Test.

Sonny Bill Williams has slotted straight back into the side after a four-match suspension, teaming up with Ryan Crotty in the midfield, while Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane will line up on the wing.

Sonny Bill Williams will be waiting on the verdict of his appeal. Photo: Getty ImagesThe forwards are more consistent, with Liam Squire nabbing the blindside flanker spot, in favour of Jerome Kaino, and Scott Barrett left out of the bench, along with Charlie Faumuina.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen

"There's a real sense of excitement within the group and a desire to go out and perform well this weekend.  This Test will give us a great opportunity to gauge where we are at when it comes to things we have been working on since the Lions Tour.

"We've had a great build-up here in Sydney and there's a single-minded focus.

"We're playing for our most significant trophy outside of the Rugby World Cup and it means a lot to us as a team.

"As always, it's going to be a massive occasion and we're looking forward to Saturday."

The Wallabies are set to name their team later on Thursday, with few radical changes expected, and Dane Haylett-Petty's bicep the only lingering injury concern.

Australia takes on New Zealand on Saturday night in the opening Bledisloe, kicking off at 8pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Network Ten and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.


IN: Damian McKenzie, Liam Squire, Rieko Ioane, Ryan Crotty, Ben Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Lima Sopoaga, Ofa Tuungafasi, L:uke Romano 

OUT: Jerome Kaino, Scott Barrett, Julian Savea, Israel Dagg, Jordie Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa, Aaron Cruden, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett

1. Joe Moody (28)

2. Codie Taylor (19)

3. Owen Franks (94)

4. Brodie Retallick (64)

5. Samuel Whitelock (88)

6. Liam Squire (9)

7. Sam Cane (44)

8. Kieran Read (100) - Captain

9. Aaron Smith (62)

10. Beauden Barrett (53)

11. Rieko Ioane (5)

12. Sonny Bill Williams (36)

13. Ryan Crotty (27)

14. Ben Smith (62)

15. Damian McKenzie (2)


16. Nathan Harris (8)

17. Wyatt Crockett (62)

18. Ofa Tu'ungafasi (4)

19. Luke Romano (26)

20. Ardie Savea (16)

21. TJ Perenara (33)

22. Lima Sopoaga (7)

23. Anton Lienert-Brown (13)