Fly-half Beauden Barrett will start against Wales in Cardiff as he joins an exclusive list of New Zealand centurions on Saturday, one of 12 changes made by All Blacks coach Ian Foster
The Blues talisman came off the bench to make his 99th New Zealand appearance in their 104-14 trouncing of the United States last Saturday.
Head coach Ian Foster has made 12 changes to his XV following that one-sided display, with captain Sam Whitelock, flanker Dalton Papalii and winger Will Jordan the only players retained from the win in Washington.
Rieko Ioane will start on the other wing while David Havili and Anton Lienert-Brown revive their tandem in the centres, and TJ Perenara has been restored to starting duties at scrum-half.
Ethan Blackadder is something of a surprise starter at blindside flanker alongside Dalton Papalii in the No. 7 jersey, forcing Akira Ioane to settle for a spot on the bench despite some star performances this year.
A trip to Cardiff gives Ardie Savea his route back into the starting line-up at No. 8, while the first-string front row of Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Nepo Laulala has also been reassembled.
Barrett, 30, steered New Zealand from 10 for most of their run to the 2021 Rugby Championship crown, while Richie Mo’unga and Damian McKenzie each recorded one start at fly-half during the competition.
Mo’unga appeared to have overtaken Barrett in the pecking order prior to leaving their camp for the birth of his second child, a son, but Foster insisted Barrett’s start in his century appearance is fully deserved.
“He’s been running this team the last couple of months, and so we felt he deserved the opportunity,” the All Blacks coach told reporters on Friday.
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“It’s his 100th Test, and he’s in a good place to go and celebrate that with a game that means a lot to him. It’s a big occasion here in Wales, he’s on top of his game, so we’re delighted with that selection.
“He’s a quality person. The thing I love about him is he prepares the team first and then himself.
“He’s selfless and on the field he’s got that sense of adventure. He’s his own style of 10, slightly different. He can do the stuff 10s do but he’s also got the ability to add a bit of flavour to it as well with his running game and his speed. He’s massively influential in our camp.”
Skipper Whitelock (128 caps to date) and scrum-half Aaron Smith (101) are the only active All Blacks to have won 100 caps, and Barrett will be just the second fly-half to hit the mark after two-time World Cup winner Dan Carter.
Six Nations champions Wales will celebrate a landmark of their own as captain Alun Wyn Jones wins his 149th appearance, overtaking New Zealand legend Richie McCaw as the most capped player of all time.
Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)
Kiwi coach Wayne Pivac is dealing with a heavily restricted Wales selection, with at least 15 senior players unavailable either due to injury or because they’re yet to be released by their Premiership employers.
Auckland-born Willis Halaholo—who won Super Rugby silverware alongside Barrett and the Hurricanes in 2016—looked set to start against his birth country before testing positive for Covid-19 earlier this week.
New Zealand have won their last 31 meetings with Wales and recently restored their status as World Rugby’s top-ranked team, hoping to reinforce that position in front of a packed Principality Stadium.
New Zealand team
Jordie Barrett; Will Jordan, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, Rieko Ioane; Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Samuel Whitelock (c), Ethan Blackadder, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea
Reps: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa’i, Akira Ioane, Brad Weber, Richie Mo’unga, Sevu Reece
Johnny McNicholl; Owen Lane, Jonathan Davies, Johnny Williams, Josh Adams; Gareth Anscombe, Tomos Williams; Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones (c), Ross Moriarty, Taine Basham, Aaron Wainwright
Reps: Kirby Myhill, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Will Rowlands, Seb Davies, Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland, Ben Thomas