July 5, 2017 / 5:10 PM / in 5 months

Jordie Barrett, Laumape get first test starts against Lions

AUCKLAND (Reuters) - Fullback Jordie Barrett and centre Ngani Laumape will make their first starts for the All Blacks in the series-deciding third test against the British and Irish Lions in Auckland on Saturday.

Barrett made his debut off the bench against Samoa last month, while Laumape did likewise in the 24-21 second test loss to the Lions in Wellington last week after Sonny Bill Williams had been dismissed for a dangerous shoulder charge.

Hansen rejected the idea that the selection of 20-year-old Barrett, who has the bonus of being a more reliable placekicker than his flyhalf brother Beauden, was a major gamble for such a high pressure test.

“He comes from fairly good stock, I‘m picking he’ll go all right,” Hansen told reporters after also naming a third Barrett sibling Scott as second row cover on the bench.

”He’s a pretty cool, calm and collected kid. We wouldn’t have put him there otherwise.

“He’s very good in the air and the Lions will give him a lot of ball to catch. He’s a very skillful rugby player, I’ve got no doubt about that.”

Israel Dagg, who wore the number 15 jersey in Wellington, moved from fullback back to the right wing with Waisake Naholo dropping out of the squad to give him more time to recover from a head knock.

Prolific try-scorer Julian Savea was recalled on the other wing in place of Rieko Ioane, who scored two tries in the first test but fell ill after the second test and was unable to train this week.

“He’s not a bad replacement - 53 test matches and 46 tries,” joked Hansen.

Dagg had played at fullback last week in place of Ben Smith, who was thought to have been concussed in the 30-15 first test victory in Auckland, the latest in a string of head issues for the All Blacks vice captain this year.

Hansen revealed that it had not in fact been concussed and would rejoin the squad for training.

“He wasn’t knocked out,” the coach said. “What he does have though is an inner ear malfunction which is causing him to have a bit of vertigo and dizziness. That’s now cleared.”

Despite his inexperience, Laumape had been expected to be elevated into the starting midfield with Anton Lienert-Brown as the squad’s only specialist inside centre after Williams was banned for four weeks.

Malakai Fekitoa was named as midfield cover on the bench, while captain Kieran Read will become the seventh New Zealand player to earn 100 test caps.

The Lions will be unchanged from last Saturday’s test.

New Zealand: 15-Jordie Barrett, 14-Israel Dagg, 13-Anton Lienert-Brown, 12-Ngani Laumape, 11-Julian Savea, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read (captain), 7-Sam Cane, 6-Jerome Kaino, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-Joe Moody.

Replacements: 16-Nathan Harris, 17-Wyatt Crockett, 18-Charlie Faumuina, 19-Scott Barrett, 20-Ardie Savea, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Aaron Cruden, 23-Malakai Fekitoa.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury, writing by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Ed Osmond

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