Kieran Read returns to starting All Blacks side
June 19, 2014
Kieran Read has not played a Test since being named world player of the year © Getty Images
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has limited his starting changes to two as he targets victory at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday and a series sweep after narrow wins in Auckland and Dunedin.
Read will make his first Test appearance since being crowned IRB World Player of the Year at the end of the All Blacks' perfect 2013 season. Two head knocks and the resulting concussion and related issues have reduced his involvement in Super Rugby this season and he has played just once for the Crusaders since the second clash on April 19.
That's what Test rugby should be: McCaw%]
He has trained throughout the England series but the recurrence of concussion symptoms and subsequent concerns over his fitness prompted Hansen to leave him out of the previous two Tests.
Read's return sparks a loose forward shuffle, with Jerome Kaino shifting from No.8 to his preferred blindside flanker role and Liam Messam moved to the reserves bench. Messam has been a regular in the No.6 jersey since Kaino departed New Zealand for Japan after the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Tongan-born Fekitoa, 22, replaces Conrad Smith, who fractured his left thumb in the 28-27 win in Dunedin on Saturday. Fekitoa wasn't needed off the bench in that game, having made his Test debut as a reserve in the 20-15 win at Eden Park the week before, but Hansen preferred the Highlanders' centres' powerful running and raw potential over Ryan Crotty.
Hansen said his world champion side was yet to hit their stride against England. "Whilst we felt we improved from the first Test to the second, there are areas of our game we want to improve on and that has been the focus for us this week."
Ben Smith, Cory Jane, Malakai Fekitoa, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Tony Woodcock, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read.
Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Liam Messam, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Ryan Crotty.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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