PREVIEW: All Blacks v Wales Third Test

Getty Images     23 Jun 2016     Getty Images

Matches played: 32
All Blacks won: 29
Wales won: 3
Largest winning margin: All Blacks defeat Wales 55-3, 23 June 2003, Hamilton
Last Wales victory: 13-8, 19 December 1953, Cardiff


It is a new look All Blacks side with five changes to the starting fifteen from the second Test. In the forwards, Charlie Faumuina starts at tighthead prop in place of Owen Franks while Highlanders star Elliot Dixon makes his debut in the number six jersey. In the backline, injuries to Aaron Cruden and Malakai Fekiota have given Beauden Barrett and George Moala the opportunity to start at first five-eighths and centre respectively. On the left wing, Julian Savea’s return means that Waisake Naholo shifts to the bench. A feature of the bench is the inclusion of the uncapped Liam Squire and Ofa Tu’ungafasi while Codie Taylor, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Lima Sopoaga are in line for their first appearances of the Steinlager Series.
After making their All Black debuts together against Ireland in June 2012, Aaron Smith and Brodie Retallick celebrate their 50th Test match this weekend. Since debuting four years ago, both players have developed into first choice players in their respective positions and were key cogs in the 2015 Rugby World Cup victory. Aaron Smith will relish the chance to play in front of his home crowd while Retallick will continue his great battle with 100-cap Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones. 

A sold out crowd of over 29,000 will fill Forsyth Barr Stadium for the final match of the Steinlager Series. The All Blacks have quickly developed a winning record at the venue since first playing there in 2012 with wins over South Africa, England and Australia and will want to keep the unbeaten streak alive. Both teams have expressed excitement at the prospect of playing under the roof with Steve Hansen saying: “There’s no need to worry about the weather and it’s always a hard and fast pitch, while the proximity of the crowd also creates an awesome atmosphere.”
George Moala couldn’t have much more of a tougher assignment than marking Wales centre Jonathan Davies in his second Test match. The powerful Davies has been a rock for Wales in the midfield this series and showed his attacking class by brushing off both Seta Tamanivalu and Ryan Crotty to score a late try for Wales in the second Test. Moala has been in great form with the Blues in Super Rugby and will need to translate every ounce of that to keep pace with the Wales dynamo. 

With six Highlanders sprinkled throughout the All Blacks match day 23, local fans will have an extra reason to get excited on Saturday. In the backs, Ben Smith takes the number 14 jersey while Aaron Smith goes head-to-head with Rhys Webb at halfback for the third straight week. In the forwards, Elliot Dixon makes his debut at blindside flanker while Waisake Naholo, Lima Sopoaga and the uncapped Liam Squire round out the Highlanders contingent on the bench.

All Blacks: 15: Israel Dagg 14: Ben Smith 13: George Moala 12: Ryan Crotty 11: Julian Savea 10: Beauden Barrett 9: Aaron Smith 8: Kieran Read (C) 7: Sam Cane 6: Elliot Dixon 5: Sam Whitelock 4: Brodie Retallick 3: Charlie Faumuina 2: Dane Coles 1: Joe Moody
Reserves: 16: Codie Taylor 17: Wyatt Crockett 18: Ofa Tu’ungafasi 19: Luke Romano 20: Liam Squire 21: Tawera Kerr-Barlow 22: Lima Sopoaga 23: Waisake Naholo.

15: Rhys Patchell 14: Liam Williams 13: Jonathan Davies 12: Jamie Roberts 11: Hallam Amos 10: Dan Biggar 9: Rhys Webb 8: Taulupe Faletau 7: Sam Warburton 6: Ross Moriaty 5: Alun Wynn Jones 4: Luke Charteris 3: Rob Evans 2: Ken Owens 1: Tomas Francis
Reserves: 16: Scott Baldwin 17: Aaron Jarvis 18: Samson Lee 19: Jake Ball 20: Ellis Jenkins 21: Gareth Davies 22: Rhys Priestland 23: Scott Williams