September 6, 2017 / 5:15 PM / 2 months ago

Milner-Skudder returns for All Blacks against Pumas

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Winger Nehe Milner-Skudder will make his first test appearance since the 2015 Rugby World Cup final after he was named as one of several changes in the All Blacks team to face Argentina in their Rugby Championship match on Saturday.

Milner-Skudder, who was World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2015, missed virtually all of the 2016 season after having shoulder surgery. He then broke his foot on his return this year and has barely played.

Winger Israel Dagg returns to the side after being rested for the first two Rugby Championship games against Australia, while Damian McKenzie remains at fullback with team vice-captain Ben Smith now on sabbatical until next year.

Anton Lienert-Brown has replaced Ryan Crotty in the centres and will link with Sonny Bill Williams, while scrumhalf TJ Perenara gets his first start with Aaron Smith dropping out of the matchday 23. Tawera Kerr-Barlow comes onto the bench.

Wellington Hurricanes loose forward Vaea Fifita has also been given his first test start at blindside flanker in place of Liam Squire, while Ardie Savea will start on the other side of the scrum in place of Sam Cane, who is on the bench.

Both Crotty and Cane had been injury concerns with concussion after the 35-29 victory against the Wallabies in Dunedin but had been cleared to play if selected.

Luke Romano will partner Brodie Retallick in the second row with Sam Whitelock rested.

The front row remains unchanged from the trio who destroyed the Wallabies in the scrum with tighthead prop Nepo Laulala given another chance after he impressed in Dunedin.

Regular first-choice tighthead prop Owen Franks, who was a late withdrawal from the side in Dunedin due to a long-standing Achilles injury, is to have surgery and will miss the rest of the season.

Team: 15-Damian McKenzie, 14-Israel Dagg, 13-Anton Lienert-Brown, 12-Sonny Bill Williams, 11-Nehe Milner-Skudder, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-TJ Perenara, 8-Kieran Read (captain), 7-Ardie Savea, 6-Vaea Fifita, 5-Brodie Retallick, 4-Luke Romano, 3-Nepo Laulala, 2-Dane Coles, 1-Joe Moody.

Replacements: 16-Codie Taylor, 17-Wyatt Crockett, 18-Ofa Tu‘ungafasi, 19-Scott Barrett, 20-Sam Cane, 21-Tawera Kerr Barlow, 22-Lima Sopoaga, 23-Ngani Laumape.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Toby Davis

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