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Savea, Cruden and Fekitoa return for history-chasing All Blacks

Steve Hansen makes three changes for Saturday’s game in Auckland.

Julian Savea returns.
Julian Savea returns.
Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

JULIAN SAVEA, AARON Cruden and Malakai Fekitoa will return to the New Zealand team as they prepare to secure an 18th straight tier-one win when the entertain Australia on Saturday.

The All Blacks began their winning run against the Wallabies in August 2015, going on to lift the World Cup and 2016 Rugby Championship titles.

Their latest victory saw them clock up nine tries against South Africa, a match for which wing Savea, who has scored 13 tries in New Zealand’s exceptional streak, was rested.

His return sees Waisake Naholo dropped from the squad, while Fekitoa and Cruden are named among the replacements with George Moala and Lima Sopoaga making way for the match at Eden Park.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said ahead of the third Bledisloe Cup Test: “The squad is feeling refreshed and raring to go after our return from South Africa and we’re all looking forward to what we know is a hugely anticipated Test match at Eden Park.

“We’ve been focused in our preparation this week and there’s a strong resolve within the group to put in another performance we can be proud of.

“Australia will be coming here with a lot more confidence than when we played earlier in the season. They’ve made some significant changes to their game and would like nothing better to end their southern hemisphere Test season with a win.

“They’ve said they are keen to bring it on, and have outlined their intentions, so the stage is set for another huge trans-Tasman battle. It’s a challenge we’re really looking forward to.”

Meanwhile, Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty), Augustine Pulu (Counties Manukau) and Naholo (Taranaki) have been made available for their respective Mitre 10 Cup semi-finals this weekend.

New Zealand team to face Australia: Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Matt Todd, Kieran Read.

Replacements: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Malakai Fekitoa.

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