All Blacks vs Wales: All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has named his final side while in charge of New Zealand for their Rugby World Cup bronze medal match against Wales, and he’s made a raft of changes from last week’s team.
Hansen has made seven personnel changes to the starting side that lost to England last week, with Dane Coles, Shannon Frizell, Sam Cane, Rieko Ioane, Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty and Ben Smith all named to start against Wales on Friday.
Scott Barrett has been named at lock instead of blindside flanker, while Kieran Read will start at number 8 and captain for his final match.
Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett all retain their positions as well.
Codie Taylor – the usual starting hooker for the match – has been replaced by Coles, while Liam Coltman is the reserve hooker.
Patrick Tuipulotu is the reserve lock, with Sam Whitelock out of the matchday 23.
Brad Weber, Anton Lienert-Brown and Jordie Barrett will also add impact from the bench.
It’s the game no one wants to play; the ultimate Rugby World Cup booby prize, the bronze playoff match for third and fourth.
But, despite the agony of their semifinal defeat loss to England the night before, the All Blacks are intent of putting in a performance they can be proud of when they face Wales at Tokyo Stadium on Friday night. For several, including skipper Kieran Read and coach Steve Hansen, it will be the last time they are closely involved with the All Blacks.
“We’re playing, obviously, so we will treat it like any test match,” Read said yesterday. “It will be a bit different for us but we’ll prepare as well as we can and perform as best we can. We’re All Blacks so it’s a chance for us to pull on the jersey again.
Hansen said: “This was a tough team to select because, as always, everyone wanted to play. But with a short turnaround and the nature of the tournament, we feel that this is the right team for this occasion.”
In the tight five Dane Coles starts at hooker, with a bruised and battered Codie Taylor rested, and Scott Barrett shifts from the blindside flank to lock, with Sam Whitelock also spelled for similar reasons. It’s a big statement test for a group physically battered last week by the English.