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Savea returns to All Blacks team for Bledisloe Cup test

Associated Press Associated Press 20/10/2016

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Winger Julian Savea will return for the All Blacks in Saturday's Bledisloe Cup match against Australia in the only change to the lineup that started in the 57-15 win over South Africa two weeks ago.

The All Blacks are bidding to win their 18th straight test match to establish an outright world record for a winning streak by a tier-one nation. Their latest win over South Africa equaled the record of 17-straight wins. Their record against Australia at Eden Park makes the New Zealanders hot favorites to continue the streak — they haven't lost to the Wallabies in 16 tests at the Auckland venue since 1986.

Savea replaces Waisake Naholo on the left wing as the All Blacks selectors continue their efforts to allow the giant winger to play himself into form after a disappointing season.

Two further changes have been made on the bench where flyhalf Aaron Cruden replaces Lima Sopoaga and center Malakai Fekitoa takes over from George Moala.

Kieran Read will also establish an individual world record on Saturday if he can lead New Zealand to his 19th straight win as a captain. That would break the record of 18 wins as captain held by England's Martin Johnson.

Head coach Steve Hansen said the All Blacks were mentally and physically fresh from a two-week break after the Rugby Championship.

"The squad is feeling refreshed and raring to go and we're all looking forward to what we know is a hugely-anticipated test match at Eden Park," Hansen said. "Australia will be coming here with a lot more confidence than when we played earlier in the season.

"They've made some significant changes to their game. They've said they are keen to bring it on and have outlined their intentions so the stage is set for another huge trans-Tasman battle."

The All Blacks had convincing wins over Australia at home and away in the opening two matches of the Rugby Championship, following up on their victory over the Wallabies in the Rugby World Cup final last October.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika delayed announcing his match squad until Friday, with most speculation revolving around the composition of the second row, and whether or not David Pocock will return from injury to start at No. 8.

Before leaving Sydney, vice-captain Michael Hooper said Cheika's delays have the squad in suspense.

"It's a bit of a mystery for everyone," Hooper said. "But it's been good competition across the week and I think that's been a focus for 'Cheik,' to keep guys interested and getting them chasing a spot. We need guys firing for the weekend."


New Zealand: Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, T.J. Perenara, Kieran Read (captain), Matt Todd, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody.

Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Malakai Fekitoa.

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