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Beauden Barrett replaces Aaron Cruden
September 4, 2014
Beauden Barrett (centre) is yet to taste defeat with the All Blacks © Getty Images

Beauden Barrett will start as the All Blacks' five-eighth for the first time in the Rugby Championship Test against Argentina in Napier on Saturday, the 23-year-old Hurricanes pivot one of three changes to the starting side that crushed Australia in Auckland two weeks ago.

Barrett, who has started on the bench in all his previous 21 Tests, except for two as fullback, makes his first run-on appearance at No.10 after incumbent Aaron Cruden failed to recover from a chest injury sustained in the 51-20 demolition of the Wallabies at Eden Park.

Colin Slade fills Barrett's spot among the replacements.

Aaron Cruden assesses the game, New Zealand v England, Eden Park, June 7, 2014
Aaron Cruden has a chest injury © Getty Images

"Aaron could have played but the selectors weren't prepared to take the risk of him re-injuring himself and being out for a long period," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said of the selection decision. "We made a decision on Monday. Talking to the medical staff there was a risk if we played him that if he got caught in a compromised position in the tackle that he might do it again. He's trained with us all week and has been fine, but we just thought it wasn't worth taking the risk with him."

Hansen said that Barrett's selection was another step in his growth as a player - "it is a big opportunity and one that he's looking forward to" - while confirming that Cruden, who produced a standout performance in the demolition of Australia two weeks ago, would be available for Test against South Africa next weekend.

Ma'a Nonu, meanwhile, returns to midfield after missing the second Bledisloe Cup match with a shoulder injury, and Israel Dagg regains the fullback jersey from Ben Smith.

Smith shifts to the right wing in place of Cory Jane who misses the 23-man squad altogether.

"The selectors felt this was the right time to give Israel an opportunity," Hansen said while stressing Jane's demotion was not because of a lack of form. "We have been very happy with his performances."

Prop Charlie Faumuina was dropped from the bench, replaced by Joe Moody, because the selectors were unhappy with his form and fitness, while Jeremy Thrush was preferred to Steven Luatua because the selectors wanted a specialist second-row among the reserves.

Hansen said Argentina had the respect of the All Blacks after pushing the Springboks close in two Tests.

"[That] shows that they are capable of beating top opposition."

The All Blacks have played at McLean Park only once before, humbling Samoa 51-10 at the venue in 1996.

Hansen said the forecast wet weather was a minor factor in the selection of Dagg to play in front of his home crowd a week after he helped Hawke's Bay regain the Ranfurly Shield. "It's meant to be raining, he's got a big boot so that's also handy, but the big reason is his progress from where he was," Hansen said of Dagg.

New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett. Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Joe Moody, Jeremy Thrush, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Colin Slade, Malakai Fekitoa.


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