Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape have been given their first starts by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen for the deciding third Test against the British and Irish Lions in Auckland on Saturday.
Barrett made his debut off the bench against Samoa last month, while Laumape did likewise in the 24-21 second test loss to the Lions last week in Wellington after Sonny Bill Williams was given a red card for a dangerous shoulder charge.
Laumape had been expected to be elevated into the starting side despite his inexperience as the squad’s only specialist inside centre. Malakai Fekitoa had been brought into the squad after Williams was banned for four weeks and some pundits had said he should start with Anton Lienert-Brown given his experience.
Fekitoa, who has played 23 Tests, was named on the bench.
“This final match in the series is going to be a cracker,” Hansen said in a statement. “It’s the series we expected it to be. It now comes down to this Saturday – winner takes all - and that’ll create its own unique pressures.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how both sides cope with it.”
The 20-year-old Barrett, however, was a bigger selection surprise by Hansen, with Israel Dagg moving to fullback last week after Ben Smith failed a concussion test during the 30-15 first test victory in Auckland.
Dagg has moved back to the right wing with Waisake Naholo dropping out of the squad.
Hansen also recalled winger Julian Savea after he was left out of the matchday 23 with Rieko Ioane preferred instead for the first two tests. Ioane scored two tries in the first test, but the ball did not run his way during the second. Captain Kieran Read will become the seventh New Zealand player to achieve 100 Test caps.
Assistant coach Neil Jenkins said the Lions know they must play the game of their lives to beat the All Blacks, who won the first test at Eden Park 30-15.
“Look, we know what’s coming. They’re incredibly good. We know that,” Jenkins told reporters in Queenstown, where the team have been based since Sunday. “Very rarely do they lose and very rarely do they lose at home so everything is on the line.
“It’s the series decider, World Cup final if you like. Whatever you want to label it as, it’s a humongous game. We know how hard it’s going to be.”
The only Lions team to beat New Zealand in a series was Carwyn James’ 1971 vintage, and if the current crop are to repeat that success they will have to overcome the All Blacks at a venue where they have not lost since 1994, to France.
New Zealand: 15-Jordie Barrett, 14-Israel Dagg, 13-Anton Lienert-Brown, 12-Ngani Laumape, 11-Julian Savea, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read (captain), 7-Sam Cane, 6-Jerome Kaino, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16-Nathan Harris, 17-Wyatt Crockett, 18-Charlie Faumuina, 19-Scott Barrett, 20-Ardie Savea, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Aaron Cruden, 23-Malakai Fekitoa.
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