New Zealand have signalled their attacking intent against England by naming two playmakers in a full- strength side for Saturday’s blockbuster Test at Twickenham.
Two-time world player of the year Beauden Barrett and mercurial youngster Damian McKenzie will both start in the one-off Test in London.
As expected, the run-on XV has no players from the second-string All Blacks side that beat Japan 69-31 last week in Tokyo.
It more closely resembles the side that defeated Australia 37-20 a week earlier in Yokohama, with Barrett again starting at flyhalf and McKenzie at fullback.
Coach Steve Hansen said either player could marshall the attack, making the world champions difficult to predict for defensively minded teams such as England.
“We think, against sides that play a little differently than we do, having two playmakers makes it a lot harder for them to shut us down,” he told reporters.
“It also takes away the frustration of that person who is shut down when he’s out there solo. It takes that away because he’s got someone else to take a bit of the heat.”
The starting side has four changes from the side that faced Australia, one of them forced by injury this week when prop Joe Moody tore his eyelid at training, opening the way for Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Regular starters Brodie Retallick and Aaron Smith return at lock and halfback respectively, replacing Scott Barrett and TJ Perenara.
Jack Goodhue returns to the centres after a bout of glandular fever, relegating Canterbury Crusaders teammate Ryan Crotty to the bench.
Hansen said the All Blacks wanted to “make a statement” at Twickenham, where they have only been beaten once since 2015.
“England at home is always a massive challenge for anyone,” he said.
“There’ll be 80 00 people there. For us it’s about making our own statement. To do that, we’ll need to bring our own intensity and accuracy to an even higher level.”
Damian McKenzie; Ben Smith, Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (capt), Ardie Savea, Liam Squire; Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock; Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Richie Mo’unga, Ryan Crotty. — AFP