Rugby Championship: All Blacks hand first start to Ryan Crotty; Conrad Smith returns
Last Updated: 21/08/14 3:41pm
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has challenged his side to up their game for this weekend’s Rugby Championship showdown with Australia in Auckland.
The All Blacks were held to a 12-12 draw in Sydney last week, ending a run of 17 consecutive Test victories.
Hansen admitted he was disappointed with the performance but is adamant his team are primed to atone for it in front of their home crowd after an intensive week of training.
"While we were disappointed with the draw last weekend, we are excited by the opportunity that presents itself this weekend,” Hansen said.
“It's another Test match against Australia, the chance to win the Bledisloe Cup and the first home Test of the Investec Rugby Championship in front of our home fans.
"We have been working hard on all aspects of our game this week and there's a definite resolve to improve the quality of our performance on Saturday."
Experienced centre Ma'a Nonu and back-row forward Jerome Kaino have been ruled out of the game with shoulder and elbow injuries respectively.
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Better news for Hansen on the injury front comes in the form of Conrad Smith’s return from injury and he comes into the team in place of Malakai Fekitoa at outside centre, while Ryan Crotty is promoted from the bench to replace Nonu at inside centre for his first Test start.
Liam Messam has been selected at flanker in place of the injured Kaino and prop Charlie Faumuina is back on the bench after illness.
New Zealand: 15 B Smith, 14 Jane, 13 C Smith, 12 Crotty, 11 Savea, 10 Cruden, 9 A Smith; 1 Crockett, 2 Coles, 3 O Franks, 4 Retallick, 5 Whitelock, 6 Messam, 7 McCaw (capt), 8 Read
Replacements: 16 Mealamu, 17 B Franks, 18 Faumuina, 19 Luatua, 20 Cane, 21 Perenara, 22 Barrett, 23 Fekitoa
Watch New Zealand take on Australia in Auckland on Saturday live on Sky Sports 3 HD from 8.00am.