The All Blacks are in line to spring a major surprise when naming their team to play England in their Rugby World Cup semifinal on Saturday.

NZME understands that Scott Barrett is set to be given the nod to start at blindside flanker, with Ardie Savea moving to openside flanker and Sam Cane dropping to the bench.

Premium gold

Dropping Cane from the starting lineup would be a shock - Cane hasn't come off the bench for the All Blacks since taking on Argentina in September 2017, a run of 20 tests. When healthy, he has been the All Blacks' mainstay openside flanker since the retirement of Richie McCaw after the 2015 World Cup, rarely putting a foot wrong in the test arena.

However, such a move also wouldn't be without merit, with Barrett providing the All Blacks with an extra dimension which has proven exceptional in recent times.

Sam Cane and Scott Barrett of the All Blacks run through drills. Photo / Getty
Sam Cane and Scott Barrett of the All Blacks run through drills. Photo / Getty

Not only has Barrett been in excellent form, but the Crusaders utility has given the All Blacks added punch at lineout time, allowing Steve Hansen's men to utilise three locks on the field, while not sacrificing much in open play or at the breakdown due to Barrett's all-around skillset.

That was shown in the All Blacks' most recent clash against England in 2018, where Barrett replaced Liam Squire shortly after halftime and made a significant impact at the lineout as the All Blacks claimed a tense 16-15 victory.

The All Blacks' lineout was also dominant after Barrett replaced Cane at halftime in their quarter-final win over Ireland, while the 25-year-old has shown his ability in open play on multiple occasions at the World Cup.

The move would also likely give Hansen more versatility with his bench options, given the complication of usual reserve flanker Matt Todd having been ruled out with a shoulder injury.

As opposed to a likely bench combination of Barrett and Shannon Frizell, Hansen could instead call upon Patrick Tuipulotu and Cane off the bench, allowing all the lock and loose forward positions to be adequately covered by a versatile array of options.

Sam Cane on the trend for two open-side flankers and England's Curry and Underhill. Video / Mark Mitchell

It could also throw a spanner into the works of England's plan. Their impressive flanking duo of Sam Underhill and Tom Curry have shone at the tournament so far, being dubbed the Kamikaze Kids by Eddie Jones, but they may have to adjust their gameplan to deal with Barrett in what looms as a potentially semifinal-deciding loose forward battle.

Cane, who has never played against England in his 66 tests - something he described as "a bit strange" earlier this week - would likely provide an excellent spark off the bench and a notable threat at the breakdown, but admitted he wanted to get more gametime than the 40 minutes he received against Ireland.

"Everyone wants to be playing, I was happy with my first 40 minutes. You want to play as much as you can but it's a team sport and the coaches make decisions. The positive is I'm feeling a lot fresher."

All Blacks flanker Sam Cane. Photo / Mark Mitchell
All Blacks flanker Sam Cane. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Now, he could be the All Blacks' fresh option off the bench, if they indeed decide to promote Barrett into the starting lineup.

The All Blacks reveal their team at 3.30pm, with live coverage of the team naming and resulting press conferences throughout the afternoon on

App users click here