New Zealand make four changes for Test series decider against Ireland

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New Zealand head coach Ian Foster insists difficult weeks are “often the most exciting” after making four personnel changes for Saturday’s crunch showdown with Ireland.

The All Blacks suffered a maiden home defeat to the Irish last weekend to leave the three-Test series tantalisingly poised at 1-1.

Foster is under increasing pressure in his homeland ahead of the decider in Wellington, having now overseen three defeats from his last four matches.

The 57-year-old has responded to the 23-12 reverse in Dunedin, which followed a 42-19 win in Auckland, by recalling veteran lock Sam Whitelock after concussion, in addition to bolstering his forward pack with tighthead prop Nepo Laulala.

Winger Will Jordan, who scored the Kiwis’ second try after coming off the bench in the second Test, and centre David Havili have also been restored to the starting XV following recent bouts of coronavirus.

“It’s tough having a loss but the tough weeks are often the most exciting,” Foster told the All Blacks’ website.

“A series decider against a high-quality side is a great occasion for our growth as a team.”

New Zealand’s Sam Whitelock, right, has overcome concussion to resume his long-term second-row partnership with Brodie Retallick, left
New Zealand’s Sam Whitelock, right, has overcome concussion to resume his long-term second-row partnership with Brodie Retallick, left (Ashley Western/PA)

Whitelock, who became New Zealand’s second-most capped player by making his 133rd Test appearance in the opener, is back to join long-term partner Brodie Retallick in the second row.

His recall sees Scott Barrett pushed back to blindside flanker and Dalton Papalii dropped to the replacements, while Laulala comes in for the benched Ofa Tu’ungafasi to pack down alongside George Bower and Codie Taylor.

Jordan is preferred to recent Test debutant Leicester Fainga’anuku, meaning Sevu Reece switches to the left flank.

Havili partners Rieko Ioane – who will win his 50th cap – in midfield, with Quinn Tupaea making way.

New Zealand prop Angus Ta’avao is banned
New Zealand prop Angus Ta’avao is banned (Adam Davy/PA)

Prop Angus Ta’avao drops out of Foster’s squad after being hit with a three-week suspension following his first-half red card for a high tackle on Ireland centre Garry Ringrose last weekend.

New Zealand team: J Barrett (Hurricanes); W Jordan (Crusaders), R Ioane (Blues), D Havili (Crusaders), S Reece (Crusaders); B Barrett (Blues), A Smith (Highlanders); A Savea (Hurricanes), S Cane (Chiefs, capt), S Barrett (Crusaders), S Whitelock (Crusaders), B Retallick (Chiefs), N Laulala (Blues), C Taylor (Crusaders), G Bower (Crusaders).

Replacements: D Coles (Hurricanes), A Ross (Chiefs), O Tu’ungafasi (Blues), A Ioane (Blues), D Papalii (Blues), F Fakatava (Highlanders), R Mo’unga (Crusaders), R Tuivasa-Sheck (Blues).

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