Smiling assassin McKenzie named to start against England

by AFP

New Zealand have signalled their attacking intent against England by naming two playmakers in a full strength side for Saturday's blockbuster Test at Twickenham.

Two-time world player of the year Beauden Barrett and mercurial youngster Damian McKenzie will both start in the one-off Test in London.

As expected, the run-on XV has no players from the second-string All Blacks side that beat Japan 69-31 last week in Tokyo.

It more closely resembles the side that defeated Australia 37-20 a week earlier in Yokohama, with Barrett again starting at fly-half and McKenzie at fullback.

Damian McKenzie is out of the All Blacks Test. Photo: Getty ImagesCoach Steve Hansen said either player could marshall the attack, making the world champions difficult to predict for defensively minded teams such as England.

"We think against sides that play a little differently than we do, having two playmakers makes it a lot harder for them to shut us down," he told reporters.

"It also takes away the frustration of that person who is shut down when he's out there solo. It takes that away because he's got someone else to take a bit of the heat."

The starting side has four changes from the side that faced Australia, one of them forced by injury this week when prop Joe Moody tore his eyelid at training, opening the way for Karl Tu'inukuafe.

Regular starters Brodie Retallick and Aaron Smith return at lock and half-back respectively, replacing Scott Barrett and TJ Perenara.

Jack Goodhue returns to the centres after a bout of glandular fever, relegating Canterbury Crusaders teammate Ryan Crotty to the bench.

Hansen said the All Blacks wanted to "make a statement" at Twickenham, where they have only been beaten once since 2015.

"England at home is always a massive challenge for anyone," he said. 

"There'll be 80,000 people there. For us it's about making our own statement. To do that, we'll need to bring our own intensity and accuracy to an even higher level."


IN: Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, Kieran Read, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Sonny Bill Williams, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Ben Smith, Damian McKenzie, Karl Tuinukuafe, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Matt Todd, Aaron Smith 

OUT: Angus Taavao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jackson Hemopo, Vaea Fifita, Dalton Papalii, Luke Whitelock, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Waisake Naholo, Ngani Laumape, Matt Proctor, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Jordie Barrett, Liam Coltman, Tim Perry, Tyrel Lomax, Dillon Hunt, Gareth Evans, Mitch Drummond, Brett Cameron, George Bridge

1. Karl Tu'inukuafe

2. Codie Taylor

3. Owen Franks

4. Sam Whitelock

5. Brodie Retallick

6. Liam Squire

7. Ardie Savea

8. Kieran Read

9. Aaron Smith

10. Beauden Barrett

11. Rieko Ioane

12. Sonny Bill Williams

13. Jack Goodhue

14. Ben Smith

15. Damian McKenzie


16. Dane Coles

17. Ofa Tuungafasi

18. Nepo Laulala

19. Scott Barrett

20. Matt Todd

21. TJ Perenara

22. Richie Mo'unga

23. Ryan Crotty