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Debut for Dixon as All Blacks make changes

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 22/06/2016 Daniel Gilhooly

An overhauled All Blacks will start flanker Elliot Dixon while two other uncapped players are poised to come off the bench in the third Test against Wales in Dunedin.

Leading the series 2-0, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has taken the chance to make five starting changes to the side who clinched the series with a 36-22 win in Wellington on Saturday.

Dixon, 26, is rewarded for two impressive seasons of Super Rugby for the champion Highlanders. He starts on the blindside flank in place of Jerome Kaino.

The two uncapped reserves are Highlanders loose forward Liam Squire, who replaces in-form impact player Ardie Savea, and Blues prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi.

Tu'ungafasi's selection comes after tighthead Charlie Faumuina was promoted to start in place of Owen Franks.

Two changes to the starting backline are forced by injury.

Beauden Barrett, who has starred off the bench in the first two Tests, is at first five-eighth in place of Aaron Cruden (neck).

A knee injury to centre Malakai Fekitoa hands a second Test start to George Moala, who scored the All Blacks' lone try in his debut on the wing in the tight win over Samoa in Apia last year.

Hansen has restored Julian Savea in place of Waisake Naholo, having dropped the prolific left winger last week in a bid to get him out of a mental rut.

Five players on a much-changed bench are poised to play their first part in the series.

Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow is back from a hand injury while first five-eighth Liam Sopoaga and hooker Codie Taylor join Tu'ungafasi and Squire.

If Hansen uses all his bench, only three squad members won't have had any game time against the Welsh - utility back Damian McKenzie, lock Tom Franklin and injured back Charlie Ngatai.

"With the series won, it came down to risk and reward and we felt the rewards of seeing these new players in the Test arena, after watching them for three weeks on the training pitch, outweighed any risks," Hansen said.

"That said, we're expecting another brutal Test match, with the expectation that Wales will again chuck the kitchen sink at us."

The Test will be the 50th each for lock Brodie Retallick and halfback Aaron Smith.

All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, George Moala, Ryan Crotty, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (capt), Sam Cane, Elliot Dixon, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Charlie Faumuina, Dane Coles, Joe Moody. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Luke Romano, Liam Squire, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Lima Sopoaga, Waisake Naholo.

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