All Black trio dropped after Wallabies loss
Prop Owen Franks and wings Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane have been dropped by New Zealand in the wake of the All Blacks’ 47-26 defeat by Australia.
The trio fail to even make the bench for Saturday’s return at Eden Park.
“They’re not playing, you can say they are dropped,” coach Steve Hansen said.
Franks, Smith and Ioane have a combined total of 213 Test caps. Their replacements Nepo Laulala, George Bridge and Sevu Reece have just 22 between them.
“Obviously, we’d like to see Ben, Owen and Rieko playing better but we’ve made the decision because we’ve got to find out more about these other people in pressure-cooker situations and you don’t get much bigger than this,” Hansen added.
New Zealand came close to losing their near decade-long reign at the top of the world rankings after last weekend’s loss, with Wales failing to get the draw or win against England that was necessary to move them ahead of the All Blacks.
Another 15-point plus victory for the Wallabies on Saturday could send New Zealand down to sixth in the world rankings, an all-time low for the three-time world champions with just over a month to go before the World Cup starts.
In addition to his three tactical switches, Hansen was forced into another two changes to his starting XV.
Sonny Bill Williams returns in midfield after an injury to Jack Goodhue, while Patrick Tuipulotu is included in place of suspended second row Scott Barrett, whose red card just before half-time in Perth last weekend precipitated the visitors’ heavy defeat.
A Wallabies victory would earn them their first Bledisloe Cup since 2002. However, Michael Cheika’s side will have to end a losing streak in New Zealand that stretches back 22 Tests and 17 years.
Cheika has been forced into one change to his line-up with Adam Coleman coming in for the injured Rory Arnold in the second row.
“We wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think that the guys we put in aren’t good enough to do the job on Saturday if we play well. I don’t think it’s a risk and there’s lots of reward in it.”
New Zealand: B Barrett, Reece, Lienert-Brown, Williams, Bridge; Mo’unga, Smith, Moody, Coles, Laulala, Tuipulotu, Whitelock, A Savea, Cane, Read.
Replacements: Taylor, Tuungafasi, Ta’avao, Hemopo, Todd, Perenara, Laumape, J Barrett.
Australia: Beale; Hodge, O’Connor, Kerevi, Koroibete; Lealiifano, White; Sio, Latu, Alaalatoa, Rodda, Coleman, Salakaia-Loto, Hooper, Naisarani.
Replacements: Fainga’a, Slipper, Tupou, Simmons, Wright, Genia, Toomua, Ashley-Cooper.