Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Ranger one of five changes

Dynamic winger gets chance to start third test against France.

After two stunning performances off the bench against France, Rene Ranger gets the chance to demonstrate his unique brand of high-octane rugby from the opening whistle in New Plymouth on Saturday.

Ranger will start for the All Blacks on the left wing in the third test, replacing Julian Savea in one of five changes to the starting XV which wrapped up the series in Christchurch.

Piri Weepu starts at halfback ahead of Aaron Smith, Dan Carter has won his No 10 jersey back from Aaron Cruden after recovering from a broken right hand, Victor Vito starts at blindside flanker ahead of Liam Messam and Andrew Hore replaces Dane Coles at hooker.

Coles, who started the first two tests against France, has a calf strain.

None of those usurped players win a place on the reserves bench. At the weekend coach Steve Hansen hinted that now the series has been won he could take the opportunity to introduce some of his new players and three have the chance make their debuts.

Crusaders' flanker Matt Todd and Blues players Steven Luatua and Charles Piutau are in line to win their first caps. Luatua, normally a loose forward, will also cover lock, with Piutau covering the outside backs.

Todd's opportunity is a big one - he was called into the squad only at the 11th hour due to lock Dominic Bird's season-ending chest injury.

"We are committed to continue building the depth in our squad and introducing new players to test match rugby, hence why we have selected the team we have," said Hansen.

He has resisted the urge to move Ben Smith from the right wing to centre ahead of namesake Conrad, but the in-form Highlander is likely to get some time there in the second half after Piutau's introduction.

For Ranger, the start is a deserved one. Hansen and his fellow selectors had appeared happy with the Blues player being left in an impact role.

At Eden Park he flattened fullback Yoann Huget with an almost irresistible carry and in Christchurch he played a big part in Beauden Barrett's superb team try in the final minutes of the 30-0 victory.

Given the momentum he provided, and his impending departure to French club Montpellier, it seemed the part-time role was something he would be stuck with. It will be only his second start in six tests.

The other significant change is Vito for Messam. Having put the onus on his players in the No 6 jersey to be more physical it is a big opportunity for Vito to stamp his authority.

Wyatt Crockett has retained his place at loosehead prop ahead of the returning Tony Woodcock.

Hansen said last week that Woodcock was close to reclaiming his No 1 jersey after recovering from his hamstring injury and nose abscess but Crockett impressed enough to deny Woodcock once again.

***

France have made eight changes to their starting XV. Antonie Claassen of Castres Olympique replaces Louis Picamoles at number eight while Damien Chouly joins the side of the scrum. Lock Alexandre Flanquart and hooker Benjamin Kayser will also start.

In the backs Remi Tales will make his first test start in the 10 jersey, as Frederic Michalak drops from the 23-man squad. Brice Dulin will start at fullback with Marc Andreu playing on the right wing while Jean Marc Doussain replaces Maxime Machenaud at halfback.

With the series already lost, France will be looking to end a six game losing streak to the All Blacks in their first ever visit to Rugby Park.

All Blacks
15 Israel Dagg
14 Ben Smith
13 Conrad Smith
12 Ma'a Nonu
11 Rene Ranger
10 Dan Carter
9 Piri Weepu
8 Kieran Read (c)
7 Sam Cane
6 Victor Vito
5 Luke Romano
4 Sam Whitelock
3 Owen Franks
2 Andrew Hore
1 Wyatt Crockett

Reserves: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Tony Woodcock, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Matt Todd, 20 Steven Luatua, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau.

France
1. Thomas Domingo
2. Benjamin Kayser
3. Nicolas Mas
4. Alexandre Flanquart
5. Yoann Maestri
6. Thierry Dusautoir (c)
7. Damien Chouly
8. Antonie Claassen
9. Jean Marc Doussain
10. Remi Tales
11. Yoann Huget
12. Wesley Fofana
13. Florian Fritz
14. Marc Andreu
15. Brice Dulin

Reserves: 16. Dimitri Szarzewski, 17. Eddy Ben Arous, 18. Luc Ducalcon, 19. Sebastien Vahaamahina, 20. Bernard Le Roux, 21. Maxime Machenaud, 22. Camille Lopez, 23. Mathieu Bastareaud

- APNZ

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a4 at 20 Apr 2014 00:34:51 Processing Time: 17ms