Scott Barrett replaces Sam Cane in All Blacks back-row for England clash
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has sprung a surprise to his New Zealand side to play England in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final, as experienced openside Sam Cane has dropped down to the replacements.
In his place, Scott Barrett – ordinarily a second row – comes in to start on the blindside, with flanker Ardie Savea switching over to the No 7 shirt.
The alteration to the back-row is the only change to the All Blacks starting XV which beat Ireland 46-14 in the quarter-finals in Tokyo last Saturday.
Among the replacements, lock Patrick Tuipulotu replaces the injured Matt Todd in the only change to the 23.
In all, there are seven changes to the New Zealand side which narrowly beat England 11 months ago – Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Scott Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, George Bridge, Anton Lienert-Brown and Sevu Reece all included this time around.
Beauden Barrett remains at full-back, with Mo’unga operating at 10 again – Barrett has played the most matches against England (five) of the starters with a 100 per cent record in his career so far.
“There’s no doubt that this is a huge game and there’s a lot of excitement around it,” head coach Hansen said at Thursday’s press conference. “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 the great atmosphere that a Rugby World Cup semi-final brings and we know that there are many Kiwi fans who have travelled from home to support us.
“There are also many Japanese fans who will be at Yokohama cheering us on. We hope that we can put in a performance that will make them proud.”
Credit: Sky Sports