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McKenzie starts at fullback for All Blacks in Rugby Championship

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New Zealand All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has named Damian McKenzie to start at fullback in his team to play Australia’s Wallabies in the Rugby Championship Bledisloe Cup opener at at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.

The All Blacks matchday 23 features the starting front row of 94-Test veteran Owen Franks, fellow prop Joe Moody and hooker Codie Taylor, with Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett and Ofa Tu’ungafasi the front row cover.

The experienced locking combination of Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick will pair up for their 44th start together, with Luke Romano providing impact off the bench. In the loose forwards, Liam Squire comes into the matchday 23 in the number six jersey for his fourth Test start, alongside openside Sam Cane and All Blacks Captain Kieran Read, with Ardie Savea named as loose forward cover.

In the backs, Aaron Smith will start alongside Beauden Barrett. TJ Perenara and Lima Sopoaga are the inside backs run on reserves. Sonny Bill Williams returns to the matchday 23 at 12 inside Ryan Crotty, while in the outside backs Damian McKenzie starts at fullback in his third Test, with Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane on the wings. Anton Lienert-Brown provides additional back cover.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “There’s a real sense of excitement within the group and a desire to go out and perform well this weekend. This Test will give us a great opportunity to gauge where we are at when it comes to things we have been working on since the Lions Tour.

“We’ve had a great build-up here in Sydney and there’s a single-minded focus. We’re playing for our most significant trophy outside of the Rugby World Cup and it means a lot to us as a team As always, it’s going to be a massive occasion and we’re looking forward to Saturday.”

New Zealand

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

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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