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Sopoaga earns first All Blacks start in two years as Beauden Barrett is ruled out with concussion

Lima Sopoaga will make his first All Blacks start for over two years in the absence of Beauden Barrett in Brisbane.

New Zealand fly-half Lima Sopoaga
New Zealand fly-half Lima Sopoaga

BEAUDEN BARRETT HAS been ruled out of Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup clash with Australia so Lima Sopoaga gets a long-awaited start and Waisake Naholo also comes into the New Zealand side.

Barrett will play no part at Suncorp Stadium due to the concussion symptoms the World Player of the Year has been suffering from since he came off in a Rugby Championship defeat of South Africa earlier this month.

It will be the first Test Barrett has missed since the thrashing of Italy in Rome last November, when virtually the entire All Black team was rotated between dual encounters with Ireland in Chicago and Dublin.

Sopoaga gets his chance at out-half in Brisbane over two years since his only other All Blacks start against South Africa. The 26-year-old has made 11 appearances from the bench.

Naholo is back on the wing in the absence of the luckless Nehe Milner-Skudder, who sustained a dislocated shoulder in the win over the Pumas.

TJ Perenara and Anton Lienert-Brown have been named among the replacements in the only other changes to the 23 made by head coach Steve Hansen.

Hansen said: “Both teams have their own goals and expectations. From Australia’s point of view, they’ll be desperate to win as they haven’t done so [against New Zealand] for some time.

“For us, our goal is to never be satisfied at where we’re at, and that means it’s greater than just the outcome. It’s about how we play, individually and collectively as a unit. We’re always striving to get better every game and this week is no different.”

New Zealand Captain's Run - Eden Park Steve Hansen. Source: David Davies

Meanwhile, Karmichael Hunt was a surprise omission from an experienced Wallabies team named in what will be Stephen Moore’s last home Test.

One of the stars of Australia’s home series in June, Hunt had been recalled to an extended squad after eight weeks on the sidelines for Saturday’s game following ankle surgery.

He was widely expected to be on the bench, but coach Michael Cheika opted not to risk him with Samu Kerevi included as cover for the centre positions in the dead rubber match.

Lock Rob Simmons comes in as the only change to the team that beat Argentina 37-20 a fortnight ago, replacing Izack Rodda who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on Wednesday.

Retiring former captain Moore was named among the reserves for what will be his last Test on Australian soil and his 125th overall — and in front of his home crowd.

The veteran hooker will end his international career after Australia’s European tour in November.

New Zealand team: Damian McKenzie, Waisake Naholo, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith; Kane Hames, Dane Coles, Nepo Laulala, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Liam Squire, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (captain).

Replacements: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Patrick Tuipulotu, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili.

 

Australia team: Israel Folau; Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Kurtley Beale, Reece Hodge; Bernard Foley, Will Genia; Sean McMahon, Michael Hooper, Jack Dempsey; Adam Coleman, Rob Simmons; Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio.

Replacements: Stephen Moore, Tom Robertson, Allan Alaalatoa, Lukhan Tui, Ned Hanigan, Nick Phipps, Samu Kerevi, Henry Speight.

- Omni & © – AFP, 2017

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