New Zealand name five Bledisloe III changes as Samu Kerevi returns for Australia

All three Barrett brothers will start for New Zealand on Sunday when they look to reclaim their place atop the Rugby Championship standings by beating Australia in Perth.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster has made five changes to the team that devastated the Wallabies 57-22 to retain the Bledisloe Cup for a 19th consecutive year three weeks ago.

Beauden Barrett will start at fly-half as expected in the absence of Richie Mo’unga, one of three stars who remained in New Zealand for the births of their children.

Sam Whitelock is absent for the same reason and has been replaced by Scott Barrett at lock, while Brad Weber steps in for scrum-half Aaron Smith to make only his second Test start.

The third Barrett brother, Hurricanes star Jordie, will take over the full-back jersey, meanwhile, as Damian McKenzie drops out days after his upcoming Chiefs departure was confirmed.

Ardie Savea will captain the team for the first time in Perth, where Foster said motivation isn’t lacking despite recent back-to-back wins over the Wallabies: “We are ready, and the team is really determined to finish off this block of Tests against Australia with a top performance.

“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.

“In the forwards, we have picked a group that is most recently battle-hardened. A lot of them played in the first two Bledisloe Cup Tests, so it’s right to go with them in this Fortinet Rugby Championship Test.”

Australia have no chance of winning the Bledisloe Cup at Optus Stadium, but they can inject some much-needed vigour into their Rugby Championship quest in this rearranged Week 2 matchup.

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Head coach Dave Rennie has opted against widespread changes despite his team conceding a record points tally the last time they met New Zealand.

Samu Kerevi’s comeback is the main storyline for the hosts as he prepares for his first Test outing since the 2019 Rugby World Cup, having spent the past two years playing in Tokyo with Sungoliath.

Lock Izack Rodda also hasn’t represented his country since that tournament in Japan, having been handed a recall after signing a contract with Western Force following his year at Lyon.

Kerevi and Rodda have stepped in to replace Hunter Paisami and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, respectively, as they each await their firstborn children.

“It’s great to be able to call on the experience of Samu and Izack this weekend with Hunter and Lukhan leaving the group to be with their partners in what’s a really exciting time of their lives," Rennie said.

“Both Samu and Izack have worked really hard since joining the group, been positive additions and have earned their opportunity to pull on the gold jersey on Sunday afternoon at Optus Stadium.”

Australian morale is sure to have been affected by their two defeats in Auckland last month, but the Wallabies emerged triumphant the last time they hosted the All Blacks in November 2020.

The Bledisloe Cup may be lost, but it’s still early days in the Rugby Championship, where a good enough win could even lift them above New Zealand.

South Africa currently lead the standings after they beat Argentina twice in a row, but Australia will hope home advantage grants them some much-needed pep in Perth.

New Zealand XV: (Backs) Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Brad Weber; (Forwards) Ardie Savea (c), Dalton Papalii, Akira Ioane, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, George Bower

Reps: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Angus Ta’avao, Tupou Vaa’i, Ethan Blackadder, TJ Perenara, Damian McKenzie, George Bridge

Australia XV: (Backs) Tom Banks, Andrew Kellaway, Len Ikitau, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Noah Lolesio, Tate McDermott; (Forwards) Rob Valentini, Michael Hooper (c), Lachlan Swinton, Matt Philip, Darcy Swain, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Fainga’a, James Slipper

Reps: Lachlan Lonergan, Angus Bell, Taniela Tupou, Izack Rodda, Pete Samu, Nic White, Reece Hodge, Jordan Petaia

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