Hansen makes one enforced change
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has been forced to make just one change to his starting side for New Zealand’s second test against Ireland in Christchurch on Saturday (0735 GMT), keeping faith with the squad that dismantled the tourists a week ago.
Loose forward Victor Vito, who started in the 42-10 victory over the Irish at Eden Park last weekend, was ruled out with a knee injury and Adam Thomson promoted to the starting lineup Hansen named on Thursday.
Uncapped loose forward Sam Cane was added to the bench for the Rugby League Park match, the first test in Christchurch since 2010 following a devastating earthquake in February last year that killed nearly 200 people and destroyed much of the central city.
“It’s great that test footy has returned to Christchurch and the players are looking forward to playing in front of a sell-out crowd,” Hansen said of the expected capacity turnout of 21000.
“The team, especially those of us from Christchurch, know that people have still been doing it tough so hopefully we can give them a performance on Saturday that puts a smile on their faces.”
On Sunday, Hansen said he did not expect to make many, if any, changes for the second test following the dominant display at Eden Park, but would consider shuffling his pack for the third test in Hamilton if the series was sealed in Christchurch.
“Once again, for us its about our preparation, getting clarity early in the week and building in intensity so we can have a performance we can all be proud of on Saturday,” Hansen said.
“We (the coaches) are expecting further improvements in our game due to the extra training and preparation time we have had together, along with having a game under our belt.”
“We are also expecting Ireland to improve, as they are a nation with a never-say-die attitude so what we did last time wont be good enough.”
New Zealand: 15-Israel Dagg, 14-Zac Guildford, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Sonny Bill Williams, 11-Julian Savea, 10-Dan Carter, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 6-Adam Thomson, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Andrew Hore, 1-Tony Woodcock
Replacements: 16-Hikawera Elliott, 17-Ben Franks, 18-Ali Williams, 19-Sam Cane, 20-Piri Weepu, 21-Aaron Cruden, 22-Ben Smith