By Patrick McKendry in Perth
It's the Ardie Savea and Sam Cane show – the All Blacks have unveiled their team for Bledisloe 1 in Perth on Saturday and the two dynamic loose forwards will start together alongside skipper Kieran Read.
While it's not an unexpected selection, it remains an exciting one. Savea, named in the No6 jersey, was a force of nature for the All Blacks over the latter part of last year and in the first test of 2019 against the Pumas in Buenos Aires and thoroughly deserves his start alongside the solid and defensively strong Cane, who will start at openside flanker at Optus Stadium.
The pair will be expected to provide valuable momentum with the ball and a wall-like defensive screen against a Wallabies side determined to win back the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002.
It will be the first time the Savea/Cane combination has started a test since August last year when the pair ran on against Argentina in Buenos Aires and impressed hugely in the absence of the injured Read and Luke Whitelock.
It's an indication of the selectors' World Cup thinking and a pragmatic decision; they simply can't be without the explosiveness that Savea in particular provides.
Given they have kept faith with the Richie Mo'unga/Beauden Barrett double act, the selectors will presumably keep the Savea/Cane duo next weekend in the return match at Eden Park even if it doesn't immediately click in Western Australia.
Elsewhere, Dane Coles returns to a start at hooker, with Anton Lienert-Brown starting alongside centre Jack Goodhue in the midfield in the absence of Sonny Bill Williams.
The only other changes to the starting line-up which took the field at the Cake tin in the drawn test against the Springboks recently are the return from a broken hand of lock Scott Barrett and halfback Aaron Smith, who replaces TJ Perenara.
Scott Barrett, who hasn't played since the Crusaders' Super Rugby semifinal win over the Hurricanes, replaces Brodie Retallick, who dislocated his left shoulder against the Boks and likely won't play again until the World Cup in Japan next month.
There will be an excitement about the potential of the Savea and Cane combination, and not only from the selectors. The pair have proven to be New Zealand's premier flankers and should provide a momentum around the ruck and contest at the breakdown that the All Blacks have been lacking recently.
A couple of days ago, Cane was asked whether his job would change should Savea be named alongside him, and he replied: "I'll just try to execute my role every time as best I can. He'll go and do what he does best which is pretty awesome to watch. The way I can help him is just getting my area of the game right."
After their recent struggles against the Pumas and South Africa, the All Blacks will want their ball carriers to be decisive in possession and ideally go past the advantage line in order to compromise the Wallabies' defence.
The Pumas' and Bok's rush defence pressured the All Blacks to the extent they have scored only two tries in two tests, and Steve Hansen will hope that miserly return is improved at the brand new stadium on the banks of the Swan River.
Should Savea and Cane manage to put the All Blacks on the front foot in will open the way for Mo'unga and by extension Barrett, now the likely first-five and fullback combination for the big games in Japan, to control the pace of the game.
All Blacks side to face Australia
15: Beauden Barrett, 14: Ben Smith, 13: Jack Goodhue, 12: Anton Lienert-Brown, 11: Rieko Ioane, 10: Richie Mo'unga, 9: Aaron Smith; 8: Kieran Read (c), 7: Sam Cane, 6: Ardie Savea, 5: Sam Whitelock, 4: Scott Barrett, 3: Owen Franks, 2: Dane Coles, 1: Joe Moody. Reserves: 16: Codie Taylor, 17: Atu Moli, 18: Angus Ta'avao, 19: Patrick Tuipulotu, 20: Matt Todd; 21: TJ Perenara, 22: Ngani Laumape, 23: George Bridge.
Wallabies team to play the All Blacks
15. Kurtley Beale, 14. Reece Hodge, 13. James O'Connor, 12. Samu Kerevi (vc), 11. Marika Koroibete, 10. Christian Lealiifano, 9. Nic White, 8. Isi Naisarani, 7. Michael Hooper (c), 6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5. Rory Arnold, 4. Izack Rodda, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 2. Tolu Latu, 1. Scott Sio. Reserves 16. Folau Fainga'a, 17. James Slipper, 18. Taniela Tupou, 19. Adam Coleman, 20. Luke Jones, 21. Will Genia, 22. Matt To'omua, 23. Tom Banks