Damian McKenzie To Start Against Argentina


Damian McKenzie will make his first Test start at No.10 for three years after All Blacks coach Ian Foster overhauled his team for their Rugby Championship clash with Argentina on Saturday.

The fleet-footed playmaker, who has made all his Tests starts since 2018 at fullback, came off the bench when the All Blacks shut out the Pumas 39-0 on the Gold Coast last weekend to maintain their 100 per cent record in the competition.

While McKenzie will lead a backline featuring only four of the players who started last week, the pack has been completely revamped with Ardie Savea returning to captain the side from openside flanker.

Foster decided to rest frontline players before two games against South Africa over successive weekends which will decide the Rugby Championship.

"With five Tests in a row and a six-day turnaround between these two Argentinian Tests, we were always going to make some selection changes... ," Foster said in a statement.

"But the good thing is that we have a group that has been focusing on the same opposition for the last two weeks, so our preparation time hasn't been compromised.

"We are expecting a huge response from Argentina and we have to make sure we are prepared for that because we know what a wounded beast is like."

Jordie Barrett remains at fullback - rejoined in the back three by wingers Will Jordan and George Bridge - while his brother Beauden Barrett, who has had a slight calf muscle twinge to deal with this week, makes way for McKenzie's return at five-eighth.

Veteran loosehead prop Joe Moody will start a Test for the first time this season to combine with hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho and prop Tyrel Lomax in a new-look front row.

Tupou Vaa'i and Patrick Tuipulotu will combine in the second row while Savea, who missed last week's match with a head injury, joins Ethan Blackadder and Hoskins Sotutu in the second row.

TJ Perenara is retained in the No.9 jersey, while Quinn Tupaea and Rieko Ioane will combine in midfield.

New Zealand: 15. Jordie Barrett, 14. Will Jordan, 13. Rieko Ioane, 12. Quinn Tupaea, 11. George Bridge, 10. Damian McKenzie, 9. TJ Perenara, 8. Hoskins Sotutu, 7. Ardie Savea (capt), 6. Ethan Blackadder, 5. Tupou Vaa'i, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu, 3. Tyrel Lomax, 2. Samisoni Taukei'aho, 1. Joe Moody. Replacements: 16. Codie Taylor, 17. George Bower, 18. Ofa Tuungafasi, 19. Scott Barrett, 20. Luke Jacobson, 21. Finlay Christie, 22. Beauden Barrett, 23. Braydon Ennor.