Ben Smith wins All Blacks' No.15 jumper
August 14, 2014
Ben Smith was superb for New Zealand against England © Getty Images
Ben Smith has beaten off Israel Dagg for the All Blacks' fullback jumper in an otherwise predictable team for the first Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday.
Smith excelled at fullback against England while Dagg was injured, and his irrepressible form saw him named by selectors known for their loyalty. Dagg is not even on the bench, with Beauden Barrett and Malakai Fekitoa covering all the backline positions bar half-back.
"While we have been very happy with Israel Dagg's performances at 15, Ben has come in and raised the bar to another level," head coach Steve Hansen said of the selection. "The challenge for Israel now is to get his performances - when he gets the opportunity - to an even higher level."
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Jerome Kaino was selected to wear the the No.6 jersey, with Hansen saying 2013 blindside incumbent Liam Messam needed another week off after a heavy Super Rugby workload. Messam would be back in contention for selection next week, Hansen said. Steven Luatua's ability to cover lock earned him a spot on the bench.
Wyatt Crockett will start at loose-head prop after Tony Woodcock's season-ending shoulder injury, with Crusaders prop Joe Moody getting a chance to earn his first Test from the bench. Sam Cane returns from injury to back-up captain Richie McCaw, while TJ Perenara was given the nod over Tawera Kerr-Barlow to be the reserve half-back. Prop Charlie Faumuina was a late withdrawal after falling ill, while locks Dominic Bird and Patrick Tuipulotu and fly-hal Daniel Carter were ruled out by injuries.
Dagg, Kerr-Barlow, Colin Slade, Jeremy Thrush, Nathan Harris and Kane Hames will head to Sydney as cover for the selected 23, while outside back Charles Piutau has been released to play for Auckland in the opening round of ITM Cup matches.
All Blacks: Ben Smith; Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea; Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett. Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Joe Moody, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa.
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