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Mo'unga returns as All Blacks look for statement win against Fiji

Anton Lienert-Brown and Ardie Savea both return from injury for Saturday’s second Test.

Mo'unga starts at out-half in the All Blacks' second Test against Fiji.
Mo'unga starts at out-half in the All Blacks' second Test against Fiji.
Image: AAP/PA Images

RICHIE MO’UNGA HAS been restored at out-half and the loose forwards have been revamped as a chastened All Blacks look to make an emphatic statement in their second Test against Fiji in Hamilton on Saturday.

“People expect perfection,” coach Ian Foster said after the All Blacks were widely criticised for their performance in the first Test last weekend against Fiji.

The final score of 57-23 masked the fact that until Fiji ran out of steam with 20 minutes remaining, the All Blacks were clinging to an eight-point lead and losing the battle at the breakdown.

The second Test team sees a return from injury for midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown and loose forward Ardie Savea, who will both be starting their 50th Test.

The starting front row is unchanged, with hooker Codie Taylor and props George Bower and Nepo Laulala with Dane Coles, who swung the match last week with four tries, again coming off the bench.

Samuel Whitelock returns to captain the side at lock and will partner Scott Barrett in the middle row with Brodie Retallick dropping to the bench.

There is a complete change in the loose forwards, who take on a more physical presence with Savea being joined by Akira Ioane and Luke Jacobson.

Aaron Smith is united with Mo’unga in the halves and Beauden Barrett has been switched to the replacements.

David Havili, who straightened the line well in the first Test, partners Lienert-Brown in the midfield with Will Jordan, Sevu Reece and Damian McKenzie forming the back three.

Foster said the performance against Fiji was better than the All Blacks’ season opener when they whipped an under-strength Tonga 102-0 “but it did highlight some areas we need to keep growing.

“This campaign has been about growing our game and making sure we have players that are ready to go for what will be a long season.”

New Zealand

15. Damian McKenzie
14. Will Jordan
13. Anton Lienert-Brown
12. David Havili
11. Sevu Reece
10. Richie Mo’unga
9. Aaron Smith

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1. George Bower
2. Codie Taylor
3. Nepo Laulala
4. Scott Barrett
5. Sam Whitelock (capt)
6. Akira Ioane
7. Ardie Savea
8. Luke Jacobson

Replacements:

16. Dane Coles
17. Ethan de Groot
18. Angus Ta’avao
19. Brodie Retallick
20. Shannon Frizell
21. Brad Weber
22. Beauden Barrett
23. Rieko Ioane

© – AFP, 2021

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