New Zealand handed Tom Taylor his Test debut at fly-half for this weekend’s Rugby Championship match against Australia, one of two changes to the team that opened the All Blacks’ title defense with a win in Sydney.
Taylor, 24, was chosen ahead of Colin Slade to start in the playmaker’s role with fly-halves Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett all ruled out of the match in Wellington in two days. Brodie Retallick replaced injured lock Luke Romano in the other starting change.
Taylor “is mentally tough and plays the game with a lot of confidence and maturity,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said in a statement. “These factors, along with his assured goalkicking under pressure, has made this an easy selection. We have every faith that he will handle the occasion with aplomb.”
Australia, which began Ewen McKenzie’s tenure as coach with a 47-29 loss to the All Blacks five days ago, made an injury-enforced change of its own at blindside flanker as Scott Fardy replaced Hugh McMeniman, who needs a shoulder reconstruction.
“This group learned a great deal from last week and will be much better for the experience on Saturday night,” McKenzie said. “We made a decision to reward players that were in-form and who we believed were capable of executing what we are trying to achieve as a group. That doesn’t change overnight or following one losing result.”
The Wallabies haven’t beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2001, a run of 14 matches, and must win at Westpac Stadium to keep alive their chances of wresting back the Bledisloe Cup.
World champion New Zealand has held the cup -- contested annually by the two countries -- since 2002 and will ensure it keeps the trophy for the 11th straight series by avoiding defeat in Wellington or in Dunedin on Oct. 19.
South Africa retained the starting team from last weekend’s 73-13 rout of Argentina in Soweto for the Aug. 24 second-round match against the Pumas in Mendoza.
AUSTRALIA: Jesse Mogg, Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Leali’ifano, James O’Connor, Matt Toomua, Will Genia, Ben Mowen, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, James Horwill (captain), Rob Simmons, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, James Slipper.
Reserves: Saia Fainga’a, Scott Sio, Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Liam Gill, Nic White, Quade Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani.
NEW ZEALAND: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Tom Taylor, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Steven Luatua, Samuel Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Jeremy Thrush, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Colin Slade, Charles Piutau.
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