Defending champions New Zealand have made one change to their side to play England in Saturday’s World Cup semi-final, a match coach Steve Hansen said could be one “for the ages.”
Scott Barrett was named at blindside flanker on Thursday to better combat England’s “kamikaze kids,” the sole change to the starting XV that beat Ireland 46-14 in last weekend’s quarter-final.
The flanker played the second half of that match and stood out, Sam Cane having started but replaced at half-time.
Cane moves to the bench in place of Matt Todd, who injured his shoulder against Ireland, while Barrett’s spot among the replacements was taken by lock Patrick Tuipulotu.
England’s back row of Billy Vunipola and the young flanker pairing of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill have been one of the outstanding units at this World Cup and will doubtless be a combative presence this weekend.
“There’s no doubt that this is a huge game and there’s a lot of excitement around it,” said Hansen.
“We know what we have to do and we’ve had a great week’s preparation. The team is exactly where we want to be, mentally and physically, ahead of the weekend.
“We’re really looking forward to this opportunity. Both teams have a common goal, which is to make the final.
“However, we’ve arrived at this point with vastly different experiences from previous Rugby World Cups. No doubt, those experiences will resurface throughout the week and even in the game itself.
“Let’s hope the game lives up to the expectation that both teams will have, and is one for the ages.”
In-form Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue get the nod in midfield, with cross-code star Sonny Bill Williams again on the bench.
Two-time World Rugby player of the year Beauden Barrett starts at full-back, with relatively inexperienced wingers George Bridge and Sevu Reece completing the back three.
Richie Mo’unga is named at fly-half alongside regular scrum-half Aaron Smith.
Kieran Read captains from number eight, where he lines up with Barrett and Ardie Savea. Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock pack down in the boiler house, with Joe Moody and Nepo Laulala propping up Codie Taylor.
Dane Coles, Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Angus Ta’avao provide front-row cover, with Tuipulotu and Cane on the bench alongside TJ Perenara, Williams and a third Barrett, utility back Jordie.
New Zealand and England have played each other 41 times, with the All Blacks winning 33, England seven and one draw.
The last run-out between the two sides was a 16-15 victory for the All Blacks at Twickenham in November last year.
Beauden Barrett; Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge; Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (capt), Ardie Savea, Scott Barrett; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Nepo Laulala, Cody Taylor, Joe Moody
Replacements: Dane Coles, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Angus Ta’avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett