For the third time this year and before the start of the rugby championship against the Wallabies, All Blacks head coach Ian Foster has chosen the first five-eighths and full-back combination of Richie Mo’unga and Damian McKenzie.
Beauden Barrett, meanwhile, will make his 92nd All Blacks appearance from the bench.
Of course, there was a lot of speculation in 2021 as to how Barrett’s sabbatical in Japan could potentially affect his starting place with the All Blacks upon his return, especially in the # 10 jersey. Richie Mo’unga’s standout form for the Crusaders later this season on his way to a fifth Super Rugby title is an indication that his selection is getting stronger ahead of Barrett.
In fact, Barrett, who was World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017, has only made two starts in the top five for the All Blacks since early 2020, while his other four starts came as full-back.
Yet again, the 30-year-old is facing a multitude of competitions, with Will Jordan, Jordie Barrett and McKenzie all performing excellently in their roles in 2021 at super rugby level for their respective franchises.
However, from Foster’s point of view, the Mo’unga-McKenzie combo has shown enough in their two games in 2021 to drop Barrett for the first Bledisloe Cup Test of the season, as he may be attempting another offensive form with two To use playmakers.
McKenzie is more familiar with such a form than most, as he was regularly used as the second pivot for the Chiefs in 2021, sharing responsibility for sales and game management with his # 10. In addition, the structure employed by the Chiefs was objectively a success as McKenzie played a crucial role in leading the Chiefs to the Super Rugby Aotearoa Final.
However, when discussing his decisions at a Thursday afternoon press conference, Foster was keen to focus on a game-by-game basis, stating that Mo’unga’s selection was not a major change.
“We just think he’s the one for this game,” remarked Mo’unga’s Ian Foster.
When it comes to Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, Foster could certainly be right as Mo’unga’s electric feet are so often causing all sorts of problems for the Australian defense in competition.
– RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 4, 2021
On his first full-back, Foster insisted his selection was deserved, with McKenzie impressing with 30 tests throughout the week.
“Damian plays well,” said Foster. “We’re just very happy with how he’s doing. We have good competition there [in that position] also, but I think Damian’s decision-making is strong, he feels good in his game, runs fast and so I think he justifies this position. “
Foster hopes the good form shown against Fiji and Tonga can continue in a tough test against the Wallabies, bolstered by their recent streak win over France.
The All Blacks will play against Australia on Saturday, August 7th (kick-off 7:05 p.m.) in Eden Park.
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