All Blacks name squad for opening Bledisloe Cup against Australia

Wed, 04/08/2021, 11:45 pm
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
The All Blacks have named their squad for the opening Test against Australia. Photo: Getty Images

The All Blacks have named their squad for the first Bledisloe Cup match against the Wallabies, with Damian McKenzie winning the race for the vacant fullback position.

McKenzie relegates Beauden Barrett to the bench alongside brothers Scott and Jordie after a starring performance against Fiji in their previous Test.

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He is joined in the back three by Seve Reece and Rieko Ioane, who comes in for Crusaders flyer Will Jordan (hamstring).

The starting front row remains unchanged from the last Test, with loosehead prop George Bower and tighthead prop Nepo Laulala retaining their spots as Joe Moody (foot) and Ofa Tuungafasi (knee) continue their rehab.

They are joined in the tight five by captain Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick.

Dalton Papalii has been selected at openside as he links up with Akira Ioane and Ardie Savea in the back-row.

Aaron Smith and Richie Mo'unga form a nightmare halves partnership for Wallabies fans, with the backline completed by centres David Havili and Anton Lienert-Brown.

“There is huge excitement in our group at what lies ahead this weekend," coach Ian Foster said.

"There is such a huge history with the Bledisloe Cup, the rivalry between the All Blacks and Australia goes back a long, long way, and it’s always a massive contest.

"The Cup isn’t ours; we have to go out and win it again. We can’t wait for the weekend.”

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If they did have any more motivation ahead of the opening Bledisloe, the clash will mark Aaron Smith's 100th game for the All Blacks, becoming the tenth player to do so in their history.

“He’s a special man, he’s achieved so much in the black jersey and has been an iconic player for us over the last decade," Foster added on Smith.

"We know it’ll be a special night for him, his wife Teagan and his family.”

NEW ZEALAND (1-15): George Bower, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock (c), Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Richie Mo'unga, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sevu Reece, Damian McKenzie

REPLACEMENTS: Dane Coles, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Angus Ta'avao, Scott Barrett, Luke Jacobson, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett.

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