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Perenara's form warrants start as Smith rested

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Lynn McConnell     29 Sep 2016     Getty Images

Smith has been given the Test off with Tawera Kerr-Barlow being named as back-up in a side which features several changes.

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Coach Steve Hansen said the selectors were excited about Perenara because he had taken time to reproduce his Super Rugby form into Test play.

"I think sometimes he's fallen into the trap of what a lot of young guys do when the guy ahead of them is playing so well and everyone is giving him the raps [raptures]," he said.

"They try and play, or try too hard and try and do everything. Since the June series and missing out altogether he's just sat down and worked out that he's just got to do his job and when he does that he's a really good rugby player.

"Every game he has played since the June series, where he didn't get too many, he's been outstanding. He's clearing the ball off the deck the way we want him to. He's just doing everything right.
"Aaron's had a massive season, he's played a lot for the Highlanders and again for us so we sat down and thought about it and said, 'righto, at some point we'll lose him with injury so we've got to find out if these two other boys can cope and do the job and now's the time, TJ's in good form and TK [Kerr-Barlow] needs to be brought back into the group so I don't think he'll be missing out for too long," he said.

Hansen said Damian McKenzie, who is named on the bench, was excited about his opportunity since being named in the season's first squad in May. But added that the reason players had to wait they had to be ready for when they were put out on the field.

"It's about doing stuff off the park as well as on it. He's been a lot better within the environment with his homework and all that stuff and I think he's confident he can go out there and play well and that's what you want.

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"Because it will be a shock to his system as it is to every guy who plays his first Test and you've got to make sure they're mentally capable of coping with it," he said.

Liam Squire will also make his starting debut on the blindside of the scrum in the absence of Jerome Kaino due to injury while Elliot Dixon will be on the bench.

"Liam's played there a couple of times off the bench and Elliot [Dixon] has had only the 80 minutes down in Dunedin and we just think Liam gives us more at this stage," Hansen said.

"Probably the lineout more than anything else. He is probably little more the athlete and feeling a little more comfortable too. Elliot is someone who I think takes a little more time to get comfortable in the arena so we'd rather bring him off the bench and see how he goes because he has had a start and Liam hasn't. It's a whole mixture of things but there's not much in it really.

"He's had two starts off the bench so now's the time to give him a start to see what he can do and we can do the same with Elliot off the bench.

Hansen said the choice of Anton Lienert-Brown at centre was down to having played most of his Super Rugby in the position and he felt he was probably more comfortable there than at second five-eighths.

He said they wanted to give Malakai Fekitoa a breather, something Ryan Crotty had when having two weeks off after a head knock.