Rugby Championship 2014: New Zealand team to play Australia

logoSteve Hansen has named his New Zealand team to play Australia this weekend in the Bledisloe Cup match, the opening game of their Rugby Championship campaign.

In the only slight surprise, a fully fit Israel Dagg is dropped for the first time in almost three years in favour of Ben Smith, who so impressed in the June tests against England.

“While we have been very happy with Israel Dagg’s performances at 15, Ben has come in and raised the bar to another level,” Hansen said. “The challenge for Israel now is to get his performances – when he gets the opportunity – to an even higher level.”

Conrad Smith returns to the starting line-up after missing the final test in that series with injury, while the back row of Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw and Kieron Read continues. On the bench, Steven Luatua and Sam Cane provide mobile second and back row cover, while Liam Messam is handed a rest after a long domestic season with the Chiefs.

New Zealand team to play Australia:

15 Ben Smith, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith; 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.

Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Joe Moody, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Sam Cane, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.

Date: Saturday, August 16
Kick-off: 20:05 local (11:05 BST, 10:05 GMT)
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Referee: Jaco Peyper

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