McKenzie starts, Sonny Bill recalled for Wallabies test

17 August 2017 - 10:27 By Reuters
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams reacts.
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams reacts.
Image: REUTERS/David Gray

Damian McKenzie was awarded a start at fullback and centre Sonny Bill Williams recalled after serving a four-match suspension as Steve Hansen named the All Blacks team for the Rugby Championship opener against Australia.

Livewire back McKenzie will win his third cap at Sydney's Olympic Stadium on Saturday after Hansen decided to rest Israel Dagg and move Ben Smith to the right wing in his place.

"Israel, we feel that he could do with an extra week's preparation and Jordie Barrett is injured so it becomes obvious that Damian is going to be the next guy if we don't want to play Ben there," Hansen told a news conference on Thursday.

"And we didn't want to play Ben there, we want to play him on the wing. Damian's been in great form for his franchise and he's been pretty unlucky to be behind Jordie in the first place.

"He's ready for it, he's got a smile on his face and he's raring to go."

Liam Squire was included at blindside flanker in place of 34-year-old Jerome Kaino, another of the six changes to the line-up that drew 15-15 in the final Test of the British and Irish Lions series last month.

"We just think Liam's going to bring some real energy to the game," Hansen added.

"He sat watching the Lions series because of his (injured) thumb and we thought he deserved a chance.

"Clearly JK's not getting any younger and so we've got to look after him too over a long season."

Winger Rieko Ioane, who scored two tries in the first Lions Test, returns after illness, and defence organiser Ryan Crotty has recovered sufficiently from a hamstring injury to take his place in the centres alongside Williams.

Williams was dismissed for a dangerous shoulder charge on Lions winger Anthony Watson in the second Test in Wellington - the first All Black in half a century to be sent off.

He was made available for selection after an appeal that allowed a 'three-way' warm-up game between two provincial teams and the All Blacks to count as part of his ban.

Hansen opened the news conference by brushing off allegations in the Australian media that scrumhalf Aaron Smith had misled team management over a toilet tryst with a woman last year.

Team:

15-Damian McKenzie, 14-Ben Smith, 13-Ryan Crotty, 12-Sonny Bill Williams, 11-Rieko Ioane, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read (captain), 7-Sam Cane, 6-Liam Squire, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-Joe Moody.

Replacements: 16-Nathan Harris, 17-Wyatt Crockett, 18-Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19-Luke Romano, 20-Ardie Savea, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Lima Sopoaga, 23-Anton Lienert-Brown.

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