Sam Whitelock will captain New Zealand in Sam Cane's absence
Auckland (AFP) - Sam Whitelock will captain New Zealand against Australia for this weekend’s pivotal Rugby Championship clash in Auckland with Sam Cane ruled out as the All Blacks rung the changes Thursday.
Cane has failed to recover from a head injury after leaving the field early in last week’s 39-37 win over Australia in Melbourne which secured the Bledisloe Cup.
“We’re fighting against a team we have a massive amount of respect for and who pushed us to the wire, so we have taken a whole lot of lessons from that,” said All Blacks head coach Ian Foster.
Scott Barrett, David Havili and Quinn Tupaea will also be missing with injuries as New Zealand chase a win at Eden Park on Saturday that could secure the Rugby Championship.
Foster has opted for a new-look back row as Ardie Savea returns at No.8 after the birth of his third child alongside flankers Dalton Papali’i and Akira Ioane.
The absence of Havili and Tupaea means there will be a new centre partnership of Jordie Barrett and Rieko Ioane.
The All Blacks will have plenty of creativity behind the pack after naming Richie Mo’unga at fly-half and Beauden Barrett at full-back.
The Rugby Championship is finely poised going into the final weekend with New Zealand and South Africa, who host Argentina in Durban later on Saturday, tied on 14 points at the top of the table.
“It’s got the feel of a final about it, if you look at the state of the championship there are a few unknowns,” said Foster.
“We just want to make sure we go out there and put our best foot forward.”
The All Blacks have not lost in Auckland since 1994 and a sell-out crowd of 47,000 is expected at Eden Park.
“It’s a ground we love and to play our last Test match of the year here feels good,” Foster added.
The All Blacks have posted erratic results this season with four wins and four defeats, but are looking for a third consecutive win in their final home game of 2022.
“To be honest, we haven’t been too proud of some of our work in recent times and we want to get better every week,” said Jordie Barrett.
New Zealand (15-1): Beauden Barrett; Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett, Caleb Clarke; Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Ardie Savea, Dalton Papali’i, Akira Ioane; Samuel Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Tyrel Lomax, Codie Taylor, Ethan de Groot
Replacements: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Tupou Vaa’i, Hoskins Sotutu, Finlay Christie, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Sevu Reece