PERTH, Australia (AP) — Beauden Barrett will return to the No. 10 jersey in which he twice was voted the world’s best rugby player in the All Blacks team which will play Australia on Sunday in the third Bledisloe Cup test at Perth.
Barrett has played only sporadically at flyhalf for the All Blacks over the past two years, since Richie Mo’unga succeeded him in the starting role. Most of his recent test appearances have been at fullback or from the bench.
A successful playing stint in Japan last year confirmed Barrett’s determination to focus solely on flyhalf but Mo’unga remained his obstacle to the All Blacks’ role. Mo’unga’s absence from the current All Blacks squad has given Barrett, as the only flyhalf specialist, his first chance for some time to make a series of test starts at No. 10.
Mo’unga, scrumhalf Aaron Smith and lock Sam Whitelock are unavailable for Sunday’s match and New Zealand’s subsequent matches in the Rugby Championship — all being played in Australia’s Queensland state — because their wives are expecting babies.
Brad Weber will start in Smith’s place at scrumhalf, forming a new partnership with Barrett. Weber has held out T.J. Perenara who was expected to get the starting role but instead has been named on the bench.
Scott Barrett will start at lock in place of Whitelock, joining Brodie Retallick in the second row. Anton Lienert-Brown returns from injury to play at center, in a midfield partnership with David Havili.
Jordie Barrett has displaced Damian McKenzie at fullback, meaning all three Barrett brothers are in the starting lineup. Ardie Savea will captain the All Blacks for the first time from No. 8.
New Zealand already has won the Bledisloe Cup series, beating Australia 33-25 in the first test and 57-22 in the second test, both of which were played at Auckland’s Eden Park. They will now attempt to complete a rare clean-sweep of a Bledisloe series.
“We are ready and the team is really determined to finish off this block of yests against Australia with a top performance,” head coach Ian Foster said while naming the team Friday. “We’ve had a really unique situation going into this test with quarantine back in New Zealand and a ‘soft’ quarantine here in Perth. But the work that has gone in preparing the players has been outstanding so when the whistle goes on Sunday we’ll be ready.”
Smith and Mo’unga combined in the halves to lead New Zealand to wins in both Eden Park tests, which sealed the Bledisloe Cup for the 19th straight year. Wallabies coach Dave Rennie expects little respite with Weber and Barrett in the starting lineup.
“You leave out the players they have and you replace them with other world-class players,” Rennie said. “Their depth is amazing and we know that so it doesn’t change a hell of a lot.”
Australia: to be named.
New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Brad Weber; Ardie Savea (captain), Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, George Bower. Reserves: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Angus Ta’avao, Tupou Vaa’i, Ethan Blackadder; T.J. Perenara, Damian McKenzie, George Bridge.
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