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Whitelock in, Kaino out for All Blacks

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 17/11/2016 Angelo Risso
Jerome Kaino © Getty Images Jerome Kaino

All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock will resume his formidable second-row partnership with Brodie Retallick this weekend after being declared fit to play Ireland.

Whitelock, 27, sprained his ankle in last month's third Bledisloe triumph, missing the world champions' surprise 40-29 loss to Ireland in Chicago and win over Italy.

With Retallick also missing at Soldier Field due to concussion, the All Blacks struggled to assert their dominance at the set-piece and conceded three early lineout steals.

Jerome Kaino of the All Blacks. © Getty Images Jerome Kaino of the All Blacks. Ireland, meanwhile, used the precise kicking game of Johnny Sexton to generate offensive driving mauls and build an ultimately unassailable lead.

It was the first Test since 2004 in which the All Blacks conceded 40 points or more.

"It's always good when you've got your world-class players available," coach Steve Hansen said.

"He hadn't done any scrummaging, so once he'd done that and he was fine, he ticked the box himself, pulled his head out of the scrum and said it was fine."

The return of Whitelock is not the side's only upgrade for their Dublin revenge mission, with Hansen electing to redeploy his heavy artillery after a week's rest in Rome.

First-team regulars such as Ben Smith, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett and Dane Coles will all reappear at the Aviva Stadium, as will skipper Kieran Read.

Stand-in captain Sam Cane has retained his spot at openside, while the midfield partnership of Anton Lienert-Brown and Malakai Fekitoa has also been kept in tact.

However the news was not all good for the All Blacks, with veteran loosie Jerome Kaino failing to recover from a calf complaint.

Highlanders gun Liam Squire will take the 76-cap Kaino's place on the blindside.

Elsewhere, Aaron Smith has again been preferred to TJ Perenara at halfback, having started in Chicago and come off the bench in Rome.

Hansen maintained that the Highlanders star was the best halfback in the world and felt he was slowly playing his way back into form after a Christchurch Airport indiscretion.

Crusaders ace Israel Dagg, meanwhile, has used a strong performance in the Italian capital to earn his No.14 jumper back from Waisake Naholo.

Naholo will move to the bench, with Hansen preferring Dagg's ability under the high ball.

Hansen, who expressed his disappointment with how the side prepared two weeks ago in Chicago, said each squad member had looked in the mood at training.

"If you've been a competitive athlete, you know when you haven't performed well, you don't need anyone to tell you, you know," Hansen said.

ALL BLACKS: Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Malakai Fekitoa, Anton Lienert-Brown, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (c), Sam Cane, Liam Squire, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Joe Moody. RESERVES: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Waisake Naholo.

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