Brodie Retallick's return is a big boost for the All Blacks ahead of the third Bledisloe Cup match in Brisbane on Saturday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The 23-year-old was ruled out of the Test against the Springboks at Ellis Park two weeks ago because of concussion, and his ball-carrying ability and excellent lineout work were missed by the All Blacks.
There are many who believe Retallick is the best No 4 lock in the world, and he will have another chance to prove that on Saturday against a Wallabies team that has recently made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
While the All Blacks have already retained the Bledisloe Cup, following a 12-12 draw in Sydney and a 51-20 win in Auckland, they will be eager to bounce back from their 27-25 loss to the Boks and prevent their trans-Tasman rivals from making it 1-1 in the series.
The world champions have made five changes to their starting lineup, with Retallick back in the second row, Wyatt Crockett and Dane Coles coming in at loosehead prop and hooker respectively, Liam Messam replacing Jerome Kaino on the blindside flank, and Cory Jane starting on the right wing ahead of Ben Smith, who gets a break.
Beauden Barrett has retained the No 10 jersey that he wore in La Plata and Joburg, with Aaron Cruden, who was suspended for those matches after missing the All Blacks' flight to Argentina, failing to make the match 23. Colin Slade is the backup flyhalf on the bench.
The Wallabies have made two changes to the starting lineup that lost 21-17 to Argentina in Mendoza, with Christian Leali'ifano replacing the injured Matt Toomua at inside centre and Rob Simmons returning at No 5 lock having recovered from a head knock.
The big selection news, though, is the return of Quade Cooper. The 26-year-old missed the June Tests and the Rugby Championship because of a shoulder injury, before making his comeback in Australia's National Rugby Championship. Last Thursday, he showed some nice touches and scored 27 points with the boot as his Brisbane City team thrashed the North Harbour Rays 77-26. He has been named on the Wallabies bench, with coach Ewen McKenzie expecting him to make an impact if he comes on late in the game.
Adam Ashley-Cooper will on Saturday become the sixth Wallaby to earn 100 Test caps after George Gregan (139), Nathan Sharpe (116), George Smith (111), Stephen Larkham (102) and David Campese (101). Unfortunately for the winger, he's unlikely to celebrate that major milestone with a win.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: All Blacks 103, Wallabies 41, Drawn 7
In Australia: All Blacks 47, Wallabies 24, Drawn 6
RETALLICK'S STATS THAT MATTER
2 – The number of lineouts he stole during the Rugby Championship (Rank 5)
10 – The number of lineouts he won on his own throw (Rank 11)
2 – The number of turnovers he made (Rank 12)
51 – The number of tackles he made (Rank 17)
24 – The number of carries he made (Rank 33)
Source: Vodacom Rugby Stats App
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 James Horwill, 20 Matt Hodgson, 21 Nic White, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Rob Horne.
All Blacks – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Sam Cane, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Charles Piutau.
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images