17 Aug 2017

Squire and McKenzie get starts for the All Blacks

5:48 am on 17 August 2017

Highlanders loosie Liam Squire and Chiefs utility back Damian McKenzie both get starts for the All Blacks in Saturday's Rugby Championship opener against Australia in Sydney.

Liam Squire playing for the All Blacks.

Liam Squire playing for the All Blacks. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Squire starts at blindside flank, and McKenzie at fullback.

Ben Smith moves to the right wing, while Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty combine in the midfield.

The matchday 23 features the starting front row of 94-Test veteran Owen Franks, fellow prop Joe Moody and hooker Codie Taylor, with Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett and Ofa Tu'ungafasi the front row cover.

The experienced locking combination of Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick pair up for their 44th start together, with Luke Romano providing impact off the bench.

In the loose forwards, Liam Squire, on his fourth Test start, will be in the number six jersey, alongside openside Sam Cane and All Blacks captain Kieran Read, with Ardie Savea loose forward cover.

In the backs, Aaron Smith will start alongside Beauden Barrett. TJ Perenara and Lima Sopoaga are the inside backs run on reserves.

Sonny Bill Williams returns at 12 inside Ryan Crotty, while in the outside back Damian McKenzie starts at fullback in his third Test with Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane on the wings. Anton Lienert-Brown provides additional back cover.

Damian McKenzie evades a tackle at Soldier Field, 2016.

Damian McKenzie evades a tackle at Soldier Field, 2016. Photo: Photosport

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said there was a real sense of excitement within the group and a desire to go out and perform well this weekend.

"This Test will give us a great opportunity to gauge where we are at when it comes to things we have been working on since the Lions Tour.

"We've had a great build-up here in Sydney and there's a single-minded focus.

"We're playing for our most significant trophy outside of the Rugby World Cup and it means a lot to us as a team.

"As always, it's going to be a massive occasion, and we're looking forward to Saturday."

Full team (number of caps in brackets):

1. Joe Moody (28)

2. Codie Taylor (19)

3. Owen Franks (94)

4. Brodie Retallick (64)

5. Samuel Whitelock (88)

6. Liam Squire (9)

7. Sam Cane (44)

8. Kieran Read (100) - Captain

9. Aaron Smith (62)

10. Beauden Barrett (53)

11. Rieko Ioane (5)

12. Sonny Bill Williams (36)

13. Ryan Crotty (27)

14. Ben Smith (62)

15. Damian McKenzie (2)

16. Nathan Harris (8)

17. Wyatt Crockett (62)

18. Ofa Tu'ungafasi (4)

19. Luke Romano (26)

20. Ardie Savea (16)

21. TJ Perenara (33)

22. Lima Sopoaga (7)

23. Anton Lienert-Brown (13)

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