Steve Hansen drops experienced All Blacks trio with Bledisloe Cup on line

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has dropped experienced trio Ben Smith, Owen Franks and Rieko Ioane for Saturday’s Rugby Championship match against Australia at Eden Park.

Hansen is finalising his squad for the Rugby World Cup and Franks (108 tests), Smith (79) and Ioane (26) have all dropped out of the matchday 23, after the All Blacks were beaten 47-26 in the first Bledisloe Cup meeting in Perth on Saturday.

Nepo Laulala comes in for Franks at tighthead prop while wingers Smith and Ioane have been replaced by inexperienced duo George Bridge – making his first start in his fourth Test – and Sevu Reece, who has just one previous Test cap.

“We have worked hard this week on our game and all that comes with it. We’ve had a great preparation and really excited and looking forward to a massive, must-win match for the Bledisloe Cup on Saturday,” Hansen said.

“We know that Australia will be determined and confident after their win in Perth which makes the challenge even more exciting.”


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Hansen was also forced into two other changes with lock Scott Barrett suspended following a red card at the weekend, while centre Jack Goodhue picked up a minor hamstring strain.

Sonny Bill Williams has returned at inside centre after spending the last two weeks regaining match fitness in New Zealand’s provincial competition and will partner Anton Lienert-Brown in the midfield.

Lienert-Brown, 24, has moved from inside centre to outside centre in place of Goodhue.

Patrick Tuipulotu replaces Barrett, who has been banned for three weeks, and will partner Sam Whitelock in the second row.

Hansen has retained Ardie Savea at blindside flanker in the loose forwards along with Sam Cane and captain Kieran Read.

He has also signalled his intention to persist with the dual playmaker tactic at the World Cup in Japan with Richie Mo’unga again at selected fly half and Beauden Barrett at fullback.

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