Mo'unga the top 10 for All Blacks against Australia

·3-min read
New Zealand flyhalf Richie Mo'unga retains the role he played in the 2019 Rugby World Cup
New Zealand flyhalf Richie Mo'unga retains the role he played in the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Richie Mo'unga won the nod to start at flyhalf with Beauden Barrett at fullback for Sunday's Test against Australia in Wellington, but new coach Ian Foster stressed that did not mean the arrangement was permanent.

Foster opted for experience when naming his maiden All Blacks side on Friday, retaining the same roles for Mo'unga and Barrett that they played in last year's failed World Cup campaign.

Barrett is a double World Player of the year as a flyhalf and has stated that is his preferred position, while his brother Jordie was the form fullback in Super Rugby Aotearoa this year.

But Foster said he wanted Mo'unga and both Barretts on the field and solved the problem by naming Jordie on the right wing. 

"It's a selection for this Test," Foster stressed. 

"Beauden still wants to play 10 and we also know how influential he can be at 15... Probably the form 15 in the country is Jordie, and he's playing and I think you will find him in the back field a lot anyway so you feel like we've got the best of both worlds."

While Foster, who took over from Steve Hansen following last year's World Cup in Japan, has opted to start with established All Blacks, he has included three debutants in the reserves. 

He said the balance of the match-day 23 was based on what he wanted, and not influenced by what he expected from the Wallabies. 

"Our way is to pick a group we think can play our game well and you clearly see we've gone down the side of some players who have got a little bit of experience under pressure when the structure starts to break up," he said.

- 'Put a marker down' - 

The newcomers include Tupou Vaa’i, the 20-year-old Taranaki lock who will back up Sam Whitelock and Patrick Tuipulotu in the middle row, Hoskins Sotutu is the replacement loose forward and Caleb Clarke, a son of former All Black Eroni Clarke, is the outside back reserve. 

If Clarke takes the field, it will complete the 20th set of father-and-son All Blacks.

The starting pack features the experienced front row of props Joe Moody and Ofa Tuungafasi with 50-Test hooker Codie Taylor in the middle. 

In the loose forwards, captain Sam Cane is at seven, Shannon Frizell gets the nod at blindside flanker, while Ardie Savea starts at number eight. 

Outside the halves, Aaron Smith and Mo'unga, Jack Goodhue and Rieko Ioane fill the centres with George Bridge on the left wing.

Foster said he had kept an open mind about selections.

"We really wanted to see how players adapted and fitted in and how comfortable they were coming back into the environment and so there were a number of positions that we wanted to keep an open mind about," he said. 

"It's a Bledisloe series and both teams will be determined to put a marker down. For us, it's about getting our basics right and focussing on our set piece and momentum, and then letting the guys use their skillsets around the structure." 

The Bledisloe Cup is contested annually between New Zealand and Australia and has been held by the All Blacks for the past 18 years.

New Zealand (15-1)

Beauden Barrett; Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Jack Goodhue, George Bridge; Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Shannon Frizell; Sam Whitelock, Patrick Tuipulotu; Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody 

Reserves: Dane Coles, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Nepo Laulala, Tupou Vaai, Hoskins Sotutu, TJ Perenara, Anton Lienert-Brown, Caleb Clarke 

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