After two tests in the wilderness, Israel Dagg is back, and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is expecting a big performance from a player celebrating his return on his home ground against Argentina on Saturday.
Dagg, who failed to make the match day squads for the past two tests against Australia, returns to the No15 jersey, with Ben Smith moving to right wing in place of Cory Jane.
Dagg's recall comes following his thrill at winning the Ranfurly Shield against Counties in Pukekohe and Hansen said playing on his home ground of McLean Park should add to the occasion.
"People get excited playing on their home track, especially a place like Hawkes Bay where you don't get a lot of test rugby," Hansen said this morning. "He's just come off playing for the Shield and winning that, so he's in a good mental space."
Hansen added: "We felt that Dagg needed an opportunity.
He's been working hard and we know he's a world class player so here's an opportunity for him to play in an environment where he should be really excited and we should get a good performance from him."
Hansen said the decision to start Beauden Barrett in the All Blacks No10 jersey for the first time was made on Monday following an injury report on Aaron Cruden. Cruden injured a pectoral muscle against Australia at Eden Park. He could have played but the medical staff suggested the selectors err on the side of caution.
"It's just another step in his growth as a rugby player," Hansen said of Barrett starting in his preferred first-five position. "Quite frankly I haven't been too bothered whether he starts or comes off the bench. He's got a role to play and he's very good at coming off the bench. He injects himself into the game really well. But it is a big opportunity and one he's looking forward to."
Dan Carter is on track with his rehabilitation from a broken leg suffered in the Super Rugby final. His return is earmarked for September 27 - the day the All Blacks play the Pumas in Buenos Aires, but Hansen said it was possible Carter could return for Canterbury in the ITM Cup.