Ben Smith named fullback for All Blacks
June 12, 2014
Ben Smith was not at his best in Auckland © Getty Images
Ben Smith will make a long-awaited start at fullback for the All Blacks after Israel Dagg hobbled out of contention for the second Test against England.
Steve Hansen expects special series%]
Wing Julian Savea returns to a reshuffled back three in the only other change to the team for the Test at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday. Kieran Read was omitted again to spend another week on the sidelines even though coach Steve Hansen said previously the No.8 had trained freely last week and had shown no further evidence of concussion symptoms.
Savea was the other key omission at Eden Park, but he has shaken off his knee complaint. He returns to the left wing, with Cory Jane moved to the opposite flank and Smith moved to fullback, from which position Dagg is rested having struggled with a patella niggle for the past month.
Dagg scored 12 tries in his first 23 Tests, but he has gone tryless in his last 16 as his attacking verve has made way for a more conservative style of play in the 18 months since he scored his last try, against Scotland in Edinburgh.
Smith has stockpiled running metres and linebreaks from fullback for the Highlanders in the past two Super Rugby seasons but he has never started there for the All Blacks.
Hansen said the All Blacks needed a change in attitude, rather than personnel, was needed if they were to improve on their patchy performance with which they defeated England 20-15 at Eden Park.
"We have worked hard on our skillsets, attitude and the detail in our game, which wasn't up to All Blacks standard last week," Hansen said.
Aaron Cruden hence retained the No.10 jumper despite the strong challenge being mounted by Beauden Barrett, while the forward pack remained unchanged despite receiving a torrid workout at Eden Park. The bench is also unchanged, with Blues lock Patrick Tuipulotu once again getting a chance to earn his first cap after being unused on his home ground last week.
All Blacks: Ben Smith; Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea; Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Victor Vito, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa.
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