Ardie Savea will captain the All Blacks in Sunday’s third Bledisloe Cup clash against the Wallabies in Perth, as Sam Cane sits the game out due to injury.
The change at the top is met by several others as a baby bonanza in the ABs sees three players at home on family duties.
Sam Whitelock is in Aotearoa for the birth of his new baby, with Scott Barrett partnering with Brodie Retallick in his absence.
Beauden Barrett starts at first-five replacing Richie Mo'unga, who is also at home for the birth of his second child.
Halfback Aaron Smith, who captained the All Blacks for the first time against Fiji in July, is at home on dad duties too, with Brad Weber getting the spot ahead of TJ Perenara.
Speaking to the halfback selection, All Blacks coach Ian Foster said, “Brad has been with us through the Steinlager Series and coming into the Rugby Championship, we really wanted to build the nine combination, especially with Aaron not here and to complement TJ’s leadership and experience, so this is a great opportunity to put our faith in Brad to start the Test.”.
“We are ready, and the team is really determined to finish off this block of Tests against Australia with a top performance,” Foster said.
Foster added, “In the forwards, we have picked a group that is most recently battle-hardened. A lot of them played in the first two Bledisloe Cup Tests, so it’s right to go with them in this Fortinet Rugby Championship Test.”
Sunday’s clash was initially scheduled for the 28th of August but NZ Rugby delayed its Australian departure as Covid outbreaks on both sides of the Tasman burst the travel bubble.
The ABs will not return home until MIQ spots open up in November.
“We’ve had a really unique situation going into this Test, with quarantine back in New Zealand and a ‘soft’ quarantine here in Perth, but the work that has gone in preparing the players has been outstanding, so when the whistle goes on Sunday, we’ll be ready.”
When the Fortinet Championship wraps in Queensland, the ABs will head to the U.S. and Europe for their Northern Hemisphere tour.
Sunday’s 23 (test caps in brackets) are as follows: