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Smith, Dagg swap adds intrigue

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 25/08/2016

New Zealand's Israel Dagg tackles Australia's Will Genia during their Bledisloe Cup Rugby test match in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Aug. 20, © AP Photo/Rob Griffith New Zealand's Israel Dagg tackles Australia's Will Genia during their Bledisloe Cup Rugby test match in Sydney, Australia, Saturday, Aug. 20, As if a second five-eighth on debut wasn't enough, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has added further intrigue to his back line mix by getting Ben Smith and Israel Dagg to swap roles for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup clash against the Wallabies.

Smith will line up at fullback and Dagg on the right wing at Westpac Stadium in a new-look back line that also features rookie Anton Lienert-Brown at No.12 and the return of Julian Savea on the left wing.

"Both of them are world-class fullbacks and we think Ben is certainly a world-class winger and we need to find out if Izzy can start a Test there and do a job for us because it opens up, further down the track, other selection possibilities," explained Hansen.

While Hansen felt all of his back three had the skills of fullbacks, the likelihood that Australia would pick two five-eighths - which they did in Quade Cooper (first-five) and Bernard Foley (No.12) - to try and control the territory game, also prompted the switch.

"It may well also allow Ben to come into the game a wee bit more if Australia are going to kick, which I probably think they will do a bit more."

Australia are certainly smarting from the humiliating 42-8 defeat in Sydney last weekend.

After being out-muscled in the scrums and at the breakdown and out-thought in the line-out, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has reinforced his pack by bringing in lock Adam Coleman and loose forward Scott Fardy to add some height and mongrel.

All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock said the New Zealanders would need to meet fire with fire.

"They are going to be pretty annoyed with the way they played last week, so they are going to really throw everything at us," he said.

"We've got to make sure we throw it back too. We've got to start out really humming and making sure that we're desperate. We've got to start well."

Having so effectively dismantled the Wallabies lineout in Sydney, Whitelock also expected some new lineout variations from Australians.

"Their lineout leaders are intelligent guys, so no doubt they will bring something new, something a little bit different," the veteran lock said.

"For us, it's making sure our systems are in place and be aware and ready for that."

For returning prop Joe Moody, Saturday's showdown, which could see the All Blacks seal a 14th straight Bledisloe Cup series, was just about making sure there was no drop in standards.

Moody hasn't played since early July when he injured his neck while playing for the Crusaders.

"I suppose it does add a bit of extra pressure [on me], coming off a performance like that and then getting put back in the mixer this week," the front-rower said.

"It was pretty great to see them perform the way they did last week."

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