Barrett returns for All Blacks as Foster sticks with Mo'unga for Bledisloe II

by Christy Doran

Beauden Barrett is back for Bledisloe II but once again the two-time World Rugby player of the year will wear the No.15 jersey and not steer the ship at fly-half, All Blacks coach Ian Foster confirmed on Friday.

Foster will undoubtedly be hoping that Barrett's return inspires the All Blacks, who were far from their best against the Wallabies during their opening 16-16 draw in Wellington.

The All Blacks coach is under pressure to continue the legacy created under Steve Hansen and Graham Henry and hold on to the Bledisloe Cup, but he's not been helped by the withdrawal of veteran lock Sam Whitelock.

But the decision to once again play a number of players out of position will once again raise eyebrows.

Be there for the third Bledisloe Cup clash at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, Saturday 31 October. Tickets HERE

Friday's team announcement saw a few changes, including the return of Barrett for Damian McKenzie, who will come off the bench.

Regular midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown returns at outside centre, with Rieko Ioane dropping to the bench after his embarrassing blunder last weekend.

Caleb Clarke comes in for George Bridge on the left-wing, who will miss the next six months with a chest injury.

Clarke was the breakout star in Super Rugby Aotearoa and in his brief cameo in Wellington looked a serious threat out wide.

Up front and there are a few changes, with Foster following his counter-part Dave Rennie by making a change at hooker with Dane Coles starting ahead of Codie Taylor.

Whitelock hasn't recovered from a head knock suffered in the second half and has been replaced in the starting side by Tupou Vaa'i, who will play just his second Test. The All Blacks have been boosted by the return of the third Barrett brother - Scott - who will come off the bench in his comeback from a long-term injury.

LISTEN UP! Wallabies half-back Nic White joins host Nick McArdle, former Australian fullback Greg Martin and journalist Christy Doran on The Rugby Nation to dissect Bledisloe I and look ahead to Eden Park.


And yet while Beauden Barrett returns, Foster's selection will once again raise eyebrows.

On Thursday Kafer wrote that Barrett was "surely in the top three fly-halves" in All Blacks history, but has been shifted to fullback to accommodate Crusaders playmaker Richie Mo'unga. It didn't work in the World Cup semi-final and nor did Mo'unga have the impact on the game many thought he would last Sunday either.

Jordie Barrett, meanwhile, who was one of the best in Super Rugby Aotearoa yet still finds himself out of position on the wing.

Back-rower Ardie Savea, too, continues to wear the No.8 jersey despite his preferred position being on the side of the scrum.

Nonetheless, the All Blacks will head into Sunday's second Bledisloe confident of getting back on track as they return to their spiritual home of Eden Park.

"Our preparation this week has been really good," Foster said.

"It was our first Test together last weekend and while there were some aspects of our game that we were pretty excited about, especially around our set piece, we didn't get the performance that we wanted, so there has been plenty for us to work on.

"We need to be smarter with our ball and more focused defensively.

"The Bledisloe series is back to square one and starts again this weekend, which is exciting.

"It's the last Test at home for us so there will also be massive excitement amongst our fans.

"There is everything to play for and we can't wait."

The All Blacks haven't lost at the venue since 1994 and not to the Wallabies since 1986.

Last year, the All Blacks responsed from their record-breaking defeat in Perth to smash the Wallabies 36-0 to retain the Bledisloe Cup for a 17th straight year.

Wallabies v All Blacks at Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday 18th October. Kick-off: 2pm AEDT

ALL BLACKS (1-15): Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa'i, Shannon Frizell, Sam Cane (c), Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Richie Mo'unga, Caleb Clarke, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jordie Barrett, Beauden Barrett

Reserves: Codie Taylor, Alex Hodgman,Nepo Laulala, Scott Barrett, Hoskins Sotutu, TJ Perenara, Rieko Ioane, Damian McKenzie

WALLABIES (1-15): James Slipper, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Matt Philip, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper (c), Harry Wilson, Nic White, James O'Connor, Marika Koroibete, Matt To'omua, Hunter Paisami, Filipo Daugunu, Tom Banks

Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Scott Sio, Allan Alaalaota, Rob Simmons, Liam Wright, Jake Gordon, Jordan Petaia, Reece Hodge


FORWARD PACK TWEAKED, PETAIA RETURNS: Wallabies make four changes for Bledisloe II

KAFER COLUMN: Let's not get carried away by Wallabies performance, but Foster failed first All Blacks Test

ANALYSIS: The biggest area the Wallabies must fix ahead of Bledisloe II