McKenzie set for All Blacks debut

Damian McKenzie has been named on the bench in an All Blacks squad that sees as many as nine changes ahead of the match against Argentina in Buenos Aires.

The All Blacks have already clinched the Rugby Championship title, and so can afford to rest and manage their best players. Coach Steve Hansen has given scrumhalf Aaron Smith and centre Malakai Fekitoa a complete break from rugby this week.

Liam Squire will come in for the injured Jerome Kaino and start his first Test at blindside flank. Anton Lienert-Brown also makes his first Test start outside Ryan Crotty. TJ Perenara will start at scrumhalf and Patrick Tuipulotu at lock. Brodie Retallick will move to No 5 as Sam Whitelock drops to the bench.

Prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi, flank Elliot Dixon and scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow have all been promoted to the bench. The final change sees the uncapped McKenzie coming into the 23-man squad.

'There's a lot of change for a team that doesn't change much, there's no doubt about that, but there's a lot of good reasons for why we need to do it,' Hansen said. 'We're going to go round the world twice; we've got a 24-hour flight to South Africa with no recovery time and we're going to play another seven test matches, so, at some point we've got to play these people and trust them. We think they're ready.'

Hansen said he's looking forward to seeing what McKenzie can do in his first Test. The utility back has had to wait a couple of seasons for this opportunity.

'I'd say he's pretty excited but the reason you have to wait is you've got to be ready when we put you out there. It's about doing the stuff off the field as well as on it and he's been a lot better with his homework.

'He's confident he can go out there and play well. You don't want them not being ready. It will be a shock to his system as it is every guy who plays his first test. You've got to make sure they're mentally capable of coping with it.'

All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Joe Moody.
Subs: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Sam Whitelock, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Damian McKenzie.

Photo: Dianne Manson/Getty Images

Post by

Jon Cardinelli