Crusaders pivot Richie Mo’unga has been named at fly-half for New Zealand’s Rugby Championship encounter against Argentina on Saturday.
Beauden Barrett started the first two games, despite calls for Mo’unga to be included, and was exceptional in both Tests, but the 24-year-old has now been given his opportunity.
Elsewhere, half-back Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi set to make his Test debut off the bench while Nehe Milner-Skudder returns to the Test side for the first time since October last year.
Milner-Skudder was injured in the All Blacks Test in Cape Town in last year’s Rugby Championship and returns on the right wing. As well as Mo’unga and Tahuriorangi, other back changes in the match-day 23 see TJ Perenara named to start at half-back and Ben Smith move back to full-back.
In the forwards, Karl Tu’inukuafe starts at loosehead prop, in for the injured Joe Moody, and Tim Perry comes into the prop reserves. In the second-row, Scott Barrett starts, with Sam Whitelock moving to the bench. Shannon Frizell will make his second Test start at blindside flanker, with Ardie Savea at seven, with Luke Whitelock comes into the loose forward reserves.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said: “While we’ve made a number of changes from our last outing, this is not a reflection on Argentina but rather a desire by us to grow the experience and depth of our squad. Secondary to that, we also know that if we don’t use the whole squad across a long season, we’ll run out of steam later in the year.
“In making these changes, it also needs to be said that the high expectation we place on ourselves remains the same, regardless of who we’ve selected. The All Blacks jersey demands this.”
Hansen added: “We’re very aware of the Argentinian challenge. We know that they’re hungry for Test success against the All Blacks and after their recent win over South Africa, they’ll be coming here confident that they can achieve their desired goal.
“This means that we’ll need to step up with our own response and be better than we were in our recent Test in Auckland. We’ll need to concentrate on setting a strong foundation throughout the 80 minutes, particularly in our set pieces and our strike plays, along with our defence. Throughout the week we’ve concentrated on getting our personal and team processes right and delivering on these will also be key come Saturday.”
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Ofa Tuungafasi, 19 Samuel Whitelock, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown