All Blacks matchwinner Dan Carter is out of tomorrow’s third Test against Ireland in a revamped side that also features Richie McCaw moving to the backrow.
There are six changes to the starting 15 as coach Steve Hansen covers for injuries and to shore up holes exposed in the tense 22-19 second Test victory in Christchurch last weekend.
Carter, the team playmaker who won the match with a last-minute drop-kick, suffered a hamstring injury in training during the week, while No. 8 Kieran Read has been sidelined by concussion.
First Test hero Julian Savea and fellow wing Zac Guildford have been replaced by Hosea Gear and Ben Smith, while lock Brodie Retallick and side rower Adam Thomson drop to the bench.
Luke Romano will make his Test debut in the second row and uncapped flyhalf Beauden Barrett comes into the reserves, with Aaron Cruden starting in place of Carter in the pivot role.
Hansen said Carter had suffered a mild strain, but it was enough to keep him sidelined, while most of the other changes were fallout from the high-pressure second Test.
“The All Blacks, by their own admission, weren’t happy with the way they performed on Saturday, and in part this is a credit to the way the Irish played,” Hansen said. “They have laid down a challenge and the key will be now how we respond. We will have to ensure our preparation is spot-on this week, so we can get the performance we need on Saturday.”
McCaw, who will be starting for the 100th time in his illustrious 105-Test career, has always worn the No. 7 jersey, but moves to the backrow for the first time in an injury-enforced shake-up of the loose forwards.
Liam Messam, who is probably more accustomed to the No. 8 role, will start on the side of the scrum with his Waikato Chiefs teammate Sam Cane.
The inclusion of Cruden at flyhalf restores another partnership from the Super 15-leading Chiefs, with Sonny Bill Williams beside him at inside center.
Hooker Keven Mealamu returns from injury and is on the bench along with Tamati Ellison.
Romano gets his start following second-Test wobbles in an All Blacks scrum that has been down on power in the second row following the retirement of Brad Thorn after last year’s World Cup.