ABs selectors keen to find right midfield combination before facing the Wallabies.

- 5 changes to the starting XV
- Elliot Dixon to debut at blindside flanker
- Beauden Barrett at 10
- George Moala at centre
- Julian Savea returns
- Debutants Ofa Tu'ungafasi and Liam Squire on the bench

It has been rare, possibly unprecedented, for there to be a genuine left-field surprise in an All Blacks rugby test team selected by coach Steve Hansen.

George Moala at centre - that surely meets the criteria?

Moala, capped last year against Samoa on the wing, wasn't selected in the original 32-man squad.


He was drafted in as injury cover for Charlie Ngatai and could feel more than a little humbled by that as his form for the Blues gave no indication he was pressing for an All Blacks place.

From sneaking in the back door three weeks ago, he now finds himself starting against Wales in Dunedin on Saturday night and such an unlikely progression engenders the possibility that for the first time in four years at the helm, Hansen has a question to which he can't be certain yet he knows the answer.

The All Blacks, after what they have seen in their two tests so far in 2016, can't be sure they know what midfield combination they will start against Australia in August.

Their pre-series goal would have been to bed-in the Ryan Crotty-Malakai Fekitoa partnership and use Ngatai off the bench in either berth to build his confidence and increase their options.

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Ngatai's absence proves to be headache for selectors

But Ngatai was ruled out of the series with concussion and the Crotty-Fekitoa partnership didn't find much flow or rhythm at Eden Park. Defensively, they were slow to react to Wales and just as slow to react to each other.

That was to be expected, given it was the first test of the year and a fledgling combination.

It was, then, denied the chance to develop in Wellington as a result of Fekitoa cutting his head in the first minute -- which saw him disappear for 15 minutes to have it stitched and then not return after halftime.

After 160 minutes of football, there wasn't much evidence to confirm instincts about Crotty and Fekitoa being the right choice and that, as it turns out, was all the time they were going to get together.

Fekitoa probably could have played this week but the medical advice has been to leave him and allow his head more time to heal.

That should have opened the door for Seta Tamanivalu -- the bruising Fijian from the Chiefs who is an original squad pick and was used off the bench in both tests.

Yet Tamanivalu isn't even in the 23 for Dunedin and that would suggest the selectors -- aware this is their last chance to find things out before the Rugby Championship -- have asked whether they would be willing to start Tamanivalu in Sydney and concluded the answer is no.

His day will come, it just won't be in August and with Sonny Bill Williams not going to be available due to his sevens commitments, and no guarantee that Ngatai will have recovered, the selectors need some confidence around their options to play the Wallabies.

It's underselling Moala's talents to refer to him as a safe option but in comparison with Tamanivalu, that's exactly what he is.

If Crotty and Moala can gel in Dunedin, then they presumably become an option for Sydney.

It is, however, more likely Crotty and Fekitoa will be reunited with Moala a bench option and Ngatai, at this stage, still an unknown.

All Blacks squad
1. Joe Moody (13)
2. Dane Coles (38)
3. Charlie Faumuina (35)
4. Brodie Retallick (49)
5. Samuel Whitelock (74)
6. Elliot Dixon
7. Sam Cane (33)
8. Kieran Read - captain (86)
9. Aaron Smith (49)
10. Beauden Barrett (38)
11. Julian Savea (42)
12. Ryan Crotty (17)
13. George Moala (1)
14. Ben Smith (50)
15. Israel Dagg (50)

16. Codie Taylor (4)
17. Wyatt Crockett (47)
18. Ofa Tu'ungafasi
19. Luke Romano (23)
20. Liam Squire
21. Tawera Kerr-Barlow (20)
22. Lima Sopoaga (1)
23. Waisake Naholo (5)