Fledgling international Jordie Barrett will start at fullback for New Zealand in the third Test against the British and Irish Lions in Auckland on Saturday as the All Blacks turn to rookie power in a backline shake-up for the series decider.
Barrett’s Wellington Hurricanes teammate Ngani Laumape gets his first Test start after making his debut 25 minutes into last week’s second Test when Sonny Bill Williams was red-carded.
Blockbusting wing Julian Savea wins a recall after failing to even make the bench in the first two Tests while Israel Dagg moves from fullback to wing to accommodate Barrett. Second Test wings Waisake Naholo and Rieko Ioane have been dropped following the Lions’ 24-21 victory to level the series in Wellington last weekend.
Barrett, the younger brother of fly-half Beauden and lock Scott Barrett, only has 17 minutes of Test experience after taking the field as a replacement late in the All Blacks’s runaway win over Samoa before the Lions series began.
With the Lions battling to win a series against New Zealand for only the second time, the deciding final Test “is going to be a cracker,” New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said. “It now comes down to this Saturday — the winner takes all — and that’ll create its own unique pressures and it’s going to be interesting to see how both sides cope with it.”
The All Blacks have been scrambling to shore up their backline since the first Test, which they managed to win 30-15 despite injuries removing seasoned fullback Ben Smith and centre Ryan Crotty in the first half.
The midfield stocks worsened in the second Test when Williams earned a four-week suspension for his shoulder charge on Lions wing Anthony Watson.
Dagg, who started on the right wing in the first Test before replacing Smith at fullback for the second, returns to the right wing. Savea, boasting an impressive 46 tries from 53 Tests, is recalled from the wilderness to replace Ioane on the left.
Hansen has kept the same starting forward pack and bench from the first two Tests, which includes captain Kieran Read, who will become the seventh All Black to play his milestone 100th Test.
“We’ve had a good week of preparation and are very excited by the opportunity that’s ahead of us, and I’m sure the Lions are as well,” Hansen said.
“We know it’ll be a physical and intense match, but just as importantly, it’ll be a game where both teams will have moments of momentum, and the ability of everyone to adapt and adjust throughout the 80 minutes will be crucial.”