Prolific winger Julian Savea is the big-name casualty in the All Blacks side to face the British and Irish Lions in the first test.
Savea is replaced on the left wing by 20-year-old Blues flyer Rieko Ioane, who will become the youngest All Black to start a test in 12 years when he runs onto his home ground of Eden Park on Saturday.
Captain Kieran Read (thumb) returns from injury at No 8 in place of Savea’s younger brother, Ardie.
The third starting change from the New Zealand team who dispatched Samoa 78-0 at Eden Park last week is the recall of Ryan Crotty (rib) at centre in place of Anton Lienert Brown, who was one of the better performers in the 12-try romp.
There is also a possible return from injury of Aaron Cruden (knee) on the reserves bench although he needs to pass a late fitness test. He is bracketed as first five-eighth cover with Lima Sopoaga.
Lienert-Brown and Ardie Savea drop to the bench, forcing Hurricanes pair Jordie Barrett and Vaea Fifita out of the 23 after both made their test debuts last week.
Julian Savea is dropped altogether, having scored against Samoa to lift his test tally to 46 tries from 53 tests, leaving the 26-year-old three short of the all- time New Zealand record.
The brilliant Ioane became the eighth-youngest test All Black when he made his first appearances off the bench away to Italy and France last November.
A sizzling Super Rugby campaign continued into a standout performance for the Blues in their defeat of the Lions for former sevens star Ioane. He also faced the tourists in the beaten Maori All Blacks team last week.
Coach Steve Hansen was impressed enough to make a bold change, with many commentators anticipating a switch could be made on the right wing, where Waisake Naholo is challenging Israel Dagg.
“This was a really tough team to pick because there were a number of players in great form vying for positions,” Hansen said.
“(Ioane’s) outstanding form throughout the season this year, including against the Lions, has earned him his start on the wing.”
Hansen was delighted Read had timed his return from injury to lead against the Lions, having not played since fracturing his thumb in South Africa in late April.
Read’s Crusaders team-mate Ryan Crotty is also an accomplished addition to the middle of the backline, the coach said.
“They’ve both been on target to return for this game all the way through, are both in great shape and, together with the rest of the squad, they’re really excited at what’s ahead of us.”
Hansen says the scale of the challenge posed by the Lions has dawned on his players, who understand the series represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“The players are well aware of the history of the All Blacks and the Lions and are determined to respect that history with their performances,” he said. “It’ll be a battle of contrasting styles which makes it an intriguing Test to prepare for and to be part of.”
All Blacks.– Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (capt), Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserve: Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, T J Perenara, Aaron Cruden-Lima Sopoaga, Anton Lienert-Brown. — NZN