Injury to Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty has forced the All Black into making two changes to the side to face the Lions on Saturday
The All Blacks management have been forced into making two changes in the 23-man squad to face the Lions at the Westpac in Wellington on Saturday evening.
Ben Smith, who had a head-knock during the First Test and failed his HIA, is not fit for consideration, and he will be replaced by Israel Dagg who moves to full-back, a position he has filled on 48 occasions for the All Blacks.
On the flanks there’s still no room for 46-try powerhouse Julian Savea, so it’s Highlander Waisake Naholo, who comes onto the right flank. Naholo has already proved his power and pace, scoring a try as the Highlanders beat the Lions 23-22 earlier in the tour.
The other enforced change is in midfield where Ryan Crotty has failed to recover from a hamstring injury sustained in the first Test. He will be replaced by 22-year-old Crusader, Anton Lienert-Brown, who has shown so much promise in the last 12 months.
The only other change to the 23 comes on the bench where the powerful Hurricanes midfielder, Ngani Laumape, has been called up after impressing in midweek, scoring a try and carrying for 119m.
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Steve Hansen, who has enjoyed a terse and fractious relationship with his counterpart Warren Gatland during the Series, said the injuries, while not ideal, presented opportunities for others in the wider squad.
“Whilst it’s disappointing to lose both Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty, it creates an opportunity for others. ‘Izzy’ (Israel Dagg) is a world-class back three player, as is Anton in the midfield, and both Waisake and Ngani are coming into the Test side following outstanding performances against the Lions for their respective Super franchises.
The All Blacks head coach also said that despite a comfortable win last weekend, there was still no room for error, with a highly motivated Lions side to front up against.
“Whilst we were happy with the win last weekend, we know that it was just a start, in what is a three-Test Series. That means the job is far from done,” he added.
“We’re aware the British and Irish Lions have their backs to the wall and will chuck everything at us to keep themselves alive in the series. They are a quality side who we respect immensely,” added Hansen.
“In reality, last week’s Test could’ve gone either way had they taken more of their chances.”
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All Blacks: Irsael Dagg; Waisake Naholo, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Reiko Ioane; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (capt).
Replacements: Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Ngani Laumape