An injury-free All Blacks hardman Ardie Savea will lead a revamped loose trio intent on winning the physical showdown with Fiji in the second Test in Hamilton on Saturday.
Savea is joined by Luke Jacobson and Akira Ioane in the pack named Thursday, while Richie Mo’unga has reclaimed the flyhalf role to give the All Blacks’ attack better direction.
New Zealand were widely criticised for their performance in the first Test last weekend against Fiji even though they won 57-23.
The score masked the fact that until Fiji ran out of steam with 20 minutes remaining, the All Blacks were clinging to an eight-point lead and losing the battle at the breakdown.
Savea, who had been sidelined by a knee injury, said that has to change.
“We’re a physical team too, and we want to go out there and stamp our mark as well,” he said.
“It’s about our ball carriers doing a job and our cleaners being able to be in there and not giving them an opportunity to get over the ball.”
Jacobson, who was rested last week after a strong performance in the All Blacks’ season opener against Tonga, said a bruising encounter was what he wanted.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I enjoy those physical match ups,” he said.
“There’s been a bit of chat around the breakdown, Fiji did do pretty well in that area last week, but we’ve but spent a bit of time on it this week.”
– Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
The other significant changes in the team are the return of Anton Lienert-Brown from injury for his 50th Test and to add experience to the backline, and Mo’unga edging Beauden Barrett out of the 10 jersey.
All Blacks – 15 Damian McKenzie: 14 Will Jordan, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 David Havili, 11 Sevu Reece; 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith; 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Akira Ioane; 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Scott Barrett; 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower.
Subs: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ethan de Groot, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Rieko Ioane.
Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images