Richie Mo’unga will start at fly-half against the Springboks with Beauden Barrett shifted to fullback.
Richie Mo’unga will start at fly-half against the Springboks with Beauden Barrett shifted to fullback.

Shock change as All Blacks shift Barrett

STEVE Hansen's World Cup trump card could be on show for the All Blacks in Wellington when Beauden Barrett starts a Test at fullback for the first time in six years.

Celebrated five-eighth Barrett will wear No. 15 against the Springboks on Saturday in an intriguing tactical switch, with Richie Mo'unga handed playmaker duties.

Hansen has retained just three starting players from the team who opened the Rugby Championship with a nervous 20-16 win over Argentina in Buenos Aires.

One of them is Barrett and another Ben Smith, who also changes position, from fullback to wing, to cater for the seismic change.

Lock Brodie Retallick is the lone forward retained.

Crusaders star Mo'unga has been handed comfortably his biggest assignment, having started just two of nine Tests in his rookie international season last year.

His commanding displays for the Super Rugby three-time defending champions had sparked a call for more Test opportunities.

Barrett has impressed at fullback in the past. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Barrett has impressed at fullback in the past. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Critics say the free-running Barrett is an inferior game manager and should return to fullback, where he shone as a junior before spending his early Test years from 2012-15 as a game-breaking reserve, often injected at the back.

After replacing the retired Dan Carter at No. 10, Barrett was honoured as World Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017.

In 74 Tests, Barrett has started twice at fullback, most recently against Japan in 2013.

Assistant coach Ian Foster said they felt confident 25-year-old Mo'unga was ready to prove his mettle.

"He's just had more experiences out in the middle," Foster said.

"I love the way he's dealt with leading a Super team that were the defending champions. He dealt with the pressures of that and help guide them significantly to another one."

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The All Blacks are close to full strength in most areas, having named three centurions in the pack, including skipper Kieran Read.

However, No. 8 Read is the only proven force in an experimental loose forward mix, with gun flankers Sam Cane and Ardie Savea omitted.

Matt Todd and Shannon Frizell get rare starts on the side of the scrum while Dalton Papali'i and Vaea Fifita are bench options.

Another with plenty to prove is injury-plagued inside centre Sonny Bill Williams, whose World Cup selection is far from certain after managing to start just five Super Rugby games for the Blues.

Richie Mo'unga led the Crusaders to their third straight triumph.
Richie Mo'unga led the Crusaders to their third straight triumph.

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ALL BLACKS (15-1): Beauden Barrett, Ben Smith, Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Richie Mo'unga, TJ Perenara, Kieran Read (c), Matt Todd, Shannon Frizell, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody.

Reserves: Dane Coles, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Angus Ta'avao, Vaea Fifita, Dalton Papali'i, Aaron Smith, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge.

SPRINGBOKS (15-1): Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Duane Vermeulen (c), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Kwagga Smith, Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff

Reserves: Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Herschel Jantjies, Frans Steyn, Jesse Kriel

News Corp Australia

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