WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand prop Owen Franks was ruled out of the Rugby Championship clash with Australia on Saturday just hours after being named to start the game in Dunedin.
Nepo Laulala will come into the starting side alongside hooker Dane Coles, who is making his return to the All Blacks side after battling injury for much of the year.
“Franks may be out for a while so will be monitored,” coach Steve Hansen told reporters in Dunedin. “(He) has been battling with an Achilles issue all season (and we‘re) taking it one step at a time.”
Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen, who played one test off the bench in 2013, has been brought into the squad as cover.
The 30-year-old Coles has not played a test match since last November. He missed last week’s 54-34 victory over the Wallabies in Sydney after sustaining another head knock in a warmup game.
He had played just 90 minutes for the Wellington Hurricanes in Super Rugby since mid-March after sustaining knee and calf injuries then suffering concussion symptoms.
Codie Taylor, who filled the starting role in Coles’s absence and played all three tests against the British and Irish Lions and the Rugby Championship opener last week, drops to the bench.
Lock Scott Barrett has been named to bench with Luke Romano dropping out, with Kane Hames replacing Wyatt Crockett, who appeared concussed following a tackle last week in Sydney.
Hansen has kept faith with the backline that tore the Wallabies to shreds and ran up a 54-6 lead in the first 50 minutes last week.
“Whilst we were very happy with the way we played for periods of the game in the first test, there were also moments where we weren’t so crash hot,” Hansen said, referring to the final 30 minutes of the game when the Wallabies scored four unanswered tries.
“We’re well aware that we’ll have to be better in all areas of our game, and we’ve concentrated on those areas we want to improve. Once again, a good start will be important.”
Team vice captain Ben Smith has been named on the wing for his final match before taking a sabbatical until next year’s Super Rugby tournament.
Team: 15-Damian McKenzie, 14-Ben Smith, 13-Ryan Crotty, 12-Sonny Bill Williams, 11-Rieko Ioane, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read (captain), 7-Sam Cane, 6-Liam Squire, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Nepo Laulala, 2-Dane Coles, 1-Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16-Codie Taylor, 17-Kane Hames, 18-Ofa Tu‘ungafasi, 19-Scott Barrett, 20-Ardie Savea, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Lima Sopoaga, 23-Anton Lienert-Brown.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford