Sonny Bill Williams starts for New Zealand against Australia
By Tony Tighe
Last Updated: 16/08/17 6:40pm
Sonny Bill Williams returns to the New Zealand starting line-up for Saturday's Rugby Championship opener against Australia.
Williams, who was red-carded in the second Test of the British and Irish Lions series, completed his four-game suspension earlier this month and returns to the All Blacks midfield for the ANZ Stadium clash, live on Sky Sports Action from 10.30am.
Damian McKenzie and Liam Squire were the surprise selections in Steve Hansen's match-day 23, the New Zealand coach making six changes to the team that drew the third Test against the Lions.
Five of those come in the backs with McKenzie selected at full-back. Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane are named on the wing while Crotty partners Williams at centre.
Squire is preferred to Jerome Kaino at blindside flanker with Ardie Savea providing back row cover on the bench.
"This Test will give us a great opportunity to gauge where we are at when it comes to things we have been working on since the Lions tour," said Hansen.
"We've had a great build-up here in Sydney and there's a single-minded focus. We're playing for our most significant trophy outside of the Rugby World Cup and it means a lot to us as a team.
"As always, it's going to be a massive occasion and we're looking forward to Saturday."
New Zealand are seeking a fourth successive Rugby Championship title while they have held the Bledisloe Cup since 2003.
New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith; 1 Joe Moody, 2 Codie Taylor, 3 Owen Franks, 4 Brodie Retallick, 5 Sam Whitelock, 6 Liam Squire, 7 Sam Cane, 8 Kieran Read (c).
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.