WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Ben Smith has been shifted from his regular fullback role for Saturday’s first test against France as Jordie Barrett returns to the All Blacks team for the first time since last year’s British and Irish Lions series.
Smith will start on the right wing with Barrett slotting back into the number 15 jersey. Barrett was forced out of the New Zealand squad last year ahead of the Rugby Championship to have shoulder surgery.
Captain Sam Whitelock and centre Ryan Crotty have been named for the match at Eden Park in Auckland after recovering from concussion symptoms.
Crotty will start at inside centre, replacing the injured Sonny Bill Williams, with Anton Lienert-Brown outside him. Ngani Laumape will cover the midfield from the bench.
Whitelock, whose brother Luke will fill the number eight role in place of the injured Kieran Read, will be partnered with Canterbury Crusaders team mate Scott Barrett in the second row after Brodie Retallick was ruled out of the match.
“We have got a few injuries, but in the long run we have ended up with a pretty good side on the park,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. “With the exception of Brodie and (hooker) Dane Coles, most people have been available.”
Waikato Chiefs prop Karl Tu’inukuafe is set to make his test debut from the bench, capping a meteoric rise into the national side after virtually giving up on rugby four years ago.
Tu’inukuafe was ordered to lose weight by a doctor after he ballooned to 170kgs and was only called into the Chiefs side this season after injury forced out all their originally contracted props.
“He has had a couple of breaks probably when you think about what has happened at the Chiefs with their front rowers, but he has come in and done the job for them,” Hansen added.
“The Chiefs are the number one scrummaging side in Super Rugby and Karl is a big part of that so he became an obvious selection when we got down to it.”
New Zealand: 15-Jordie Barrett, 14-Ben Smith, 13-Anton Lienert-Brown, 12-Ryan Crotty, 11-Rieko Ioane, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Luke Whitelock, 7-Sam Cane, 6-Liam Squire, 5-Scott Barrett, 4-Sam Whitelock (captain), 3-Owen Franks, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16-Nathan Harris, 17-Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18-Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19-Vaea Fifita, 20-Ardie Savea, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Damian McKenzie, 23-Ngani Laumape
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ed Osmond