Richie Mo'unga will start at first-five for the All Blacks against the Springboks in Wellington on Saturday, with regular No 10 Beauden Barrett at fullback, a potentially exciting combination we probably haven't seen the last of this year.

With only four tests until the World Cup and one more before the Bledisloe Cup series, the selectors were always likely to shake things up for this match against the old enemy, which they lost last year, and they have done so; the most eye-catching decision starting their two best playmakers Mo'unga and Barrett.

Mo'unga, who led the Crusaders to their third Super Rugby title in succession this year, has previously been preferred as an impact player, a man who can lift the tempo late in a test with the added benefit of allowing Barrett to shift to the back.

But with Jordie Barrett not quite progressing as perhaps the selectors would like, Damian McKenzie injured and no experienced options for the right wing, starting brother Beauden in the No 15 jersey with Ben Smith on the right and Rieko Ioane back on the left appears the safest option for the World Cup knockout matches.


Mo'unga and Barrett should provide creativity on either side of the breakdown as well as a well-rounded kicking game – both of which will be necessary as the All Blacks attempt to win their third consecutive World Cup starting in September.

It will be Mo'unga's 10th test and third start and Barrett's 75th test. They have never started a test together.

There is further experimentation among the loose forwards, with Shannon Frizell at blindside flanker and Matt Todd at openside. Kieran Read is back at No 8, with Ardie Savea, outstanding against the Pumas last weekend, not selected.

The Crusaders' front row of Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Owen Franks slots back in after that trio and most of their franchise teammates remained in New Zealand rather than make the trip to Argentina, with Sam Whitelock back at lock and Jack Goodhue at centre alongside Sonny Bill Williams, who makes a welcome return from injury.

All Black Sonny Bill Williams returns to the starting lineup after injury. Photo / Photosport
All Black Sonny Bill Williams returns to the starting lineup after injury. Photo / Photosport

TJ Perenara starts at halfback, with regular starter Aaron Smith on the reserves bench. Loose forward Vaea Fifita gets another chance to impress, as does Dalton Papalii both of whom are on the bench.

Coach Steve Hansen will clearly want to see his forwards impose themselves a little more in this test following the difficulties his side faced in Buenos Aires, where they failed to score in the second half during a tense 20-16 victory.

The return of his top props and Whitelock will help with that but the Springboks, many of whom have been in Wellington since last week, will again provide a rigorous challenge. They easily accounted for the Wallabies last weekend and will not lack confidence after their stunning victory in Wellington and close defeat in Pretoria last year.

"The selectors are once again very excited with the team we've selected and are very much looking forward to seeing them play," Hansen said. "The key for us this week has been to continue building on the very good groundwork we've put in over the last couple of weeks.


"Whilst we were a little rusty last week, we're looking forward to seeing improvements in all areas of our game this week.

"It's always an exciting occasion when we play the Springboks. We have a lot of respect for them and love playing them, as they bring many challenges to the contest. One of those challenges this week will be to not only match the physicality of the Boks, but to impose our own physicality on the game, and execute our game and our skillsets at a higher level."

All Blacks team to play the Springboks at Westpac Stadium on Saturday, kick-off 7.35pm is:

1. Joe Moody
2. Codie Taylor
3. Owen Franks
4. Brodie Retallick
5. Samuel Whitelock
6. Shannon Frizell
7. Matt Todd
8. Kieran Read (c)
9. TJ Perenara
10. Richie Mo'unga
11. Rieko Ioane
12. Sonny Bill Williams
13. Jack Goodhue
14. Ben Smith
15. Beauden Barrett

Reserves: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Ofa Tuungafasi, 18. Angus Ta'avao, 19. Vaea Fifita, 20. Dalton Papalii, 21. Aaron Smith, 22. Anton Lienert-Brown, 23. George Bridge.