Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Ben Smith and Israel Dagg swap to negate air attacks

Change at the back offers potential of getting Ben Smith into the game more.
Changing position to the right wing from fullback won't be too drastic for Israel Dagg who has a nose for the goalline.  Photo / Getty Images
Changing position to the right wing from fullback won't be too drastic for Israel Dagg who has a nose for the goalline. Photo / Getty Images

Prop Joe Moody will return from injury to start for the All Blacks against the Wallabies on Saturday, with Anton Lienert-Brown making his test debut as the starting second-five, but perhaps the most intriguing selection by Steve Hansen is the naming of Israel Dagg on the right wing.

Dagg started at fullback in the 42-8 Bledisloe Cup humiliation of Australia in Sydney last weekend, with Ben Smith wearing the No14 jersey, but the pair will swap roles at Westpac Stadium as Hansen fine-tunes an attack without the injured Waisake Naholo and Ryan Crotty.

While Dagg made two starts on the wing under former coach Sir Graham Henry in 2010, Hansen has never regarded the now 28-year-old as a specialist there.

Dagg's ability to counter from deep and his booming right boot mean he is a natural fullback, but with Smith regarded as one of the best No15s in the game, and the Wallabies likely to kick more as they attempt to bounce back from one of the worst beatings in their history, Hansen has decided on a change.

In reality, the change probably won't be too drastic for Dagg, who will offer Beauden Barrett another kicking option and will have licence to roam as he did at ANZ Stadium last weekend. But it will have the potential of getting Ben Smith into the game slightly more.

For all of the All Blacks' attacking genius against the Wallabies, Smith had a relatively quiet game by his standards and when at his best there are few better at finding weaknesses in an opposition defence.

The selection of Lienert-Brown comes following Crotty's head knock last weekend which has come on top of injuries to Charlie Ngatai, George Moala and Sonny Bill Williams. The 21-year-old, who will partner Malakai Fekitoa in the midfield, has impressed this year with his strong running and good decision making and Hansen is backing the Chiefs player to shine. Seta Tamanivalu has been named on the reserves bench, with the selectors resisting the temptation to play promising 19-year-old Rieko Ioane.

"Firstly, we'd like to congratulate Anton on his test selection," Hansen said. "He had a very good Super season with strong performances throughout and we expect him to take the step up. We're really looking forward to seeing him play in the international arena. It'll be a special night for Anton on Saturday and he and his family can be proud of what he has achieved."

Julian Savea, who replaced Naholo once the Highlander pulled his hamstring in the act of scoring one of his side's six tries last weekend, will wear the No11 jersey on his home pitch.

Moody's selection at loosehead prop in place of Wyatt Crockett comes following the long rehabilitation of a neck injury suffered while playing for the Crusaders before the June internationals. It is a testament to the 27-year-old's ability and importance to the team that Hansen has named him to start rather than re-introduce him via the reserves.

Blues captain James Parsons has been named on the bench following Codie Taylor's concussion last weekend. Dane Coles, a late replacement for Nathan Harris last week after suffering from a painful rib problem, has been cleared to start in the Wellington showdown.

- NZ Herald

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