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Wholesale changes to NZ side vs Italy

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 10/11/2016 Angelo Risso

The All Blacks line-up for Saturday's Test with Italy has undergone an almost top-to-bottom renovation, with 12 players entering the run-on side.

Only three of last week's starting XV against Ireland have been retained from kick-off in Rome, with lock Patrick Tuipulotu, stand-in skipper Sam Cane and winger Waisake Naholo backing up.

The changes come as the All Blacks coaches look to keep their troops fresh with just three matches remaining in what's been a long 2016 campaign.

Head coach Steve Hansen said the changes were pre-meditated and hadn't been prompted by the side's surprise 40-29 loss to Ireland in Chicago.

Livewire Rieko Ioane and hooker Liam Coltman are likely to make their debuts off the bench, while the front row, half-back pairing and midfield duo have all been switched up.

"Regardless of what happened in Chicago, it's that time of year that if we don't make changes, we're going to run out of petrol," Hansen said.

The entrants to the squad include last week's four Maori All Blacks ring-ins, with Ioane, fullback Damian McKenzie, loosie Elliot Dixon and halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow all in the mix.

Kerr-Barlow will line up at No.9 alongside Chiefs teammate Aaron Cruden, while young guns Anton Lienert-Brown and Malakai Fekitoa will make up the midfield.

All Blacks regular Israel Dagg has also returned to the fold on the right flank after being rested against Ireland, while the 25-year-old Naholo has been switched to the left.

Cane, 24, is the highest-profile member of the All Blacks' loose forward trio, with Dixon and Blues gun Steven Luatua slotting in beside him.

Hansen wanted to see the 14-cap Luatua, 25, get stuck in at No.8 against the Italians.

"The reason I'm saying we need him to be physical is that's probably the one thing missing in his game," Hansen said.

In the tight five, All Blacks newbie Scott Barrett will earn his first Test start at lock after impressing off the bench last week, lining up alongside Tuipulotu.

Veteran props Wyatt Crockett and Charlie Faumuina, meanwhile, will sandwich Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor in the front row.

On the bench, Ioane and Coltman will be joined by returning lock Brodie Retallick, as well as Crusaders loosie Matt Todd and star halfback Aaron Smith.

Hansen said he expected the Italians to pose a similar threat to the Irish last week, focusing on their traditional strengths at the scrum and lineout.

ALL BLACKS: Damian McKenzie, Israel Dagg, Malakai Fekitoa, Anton Lienert-Brown, Waisake Naholo, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane (c), Elliot Dixon, Scott Barrett, Patrick Tuipulotu, Charlie Faumuina, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett. RESERVES: Liam Coltman, Joe Moody, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Brodie Retallick, Matt Todd, Aaron Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Rieko Ioane.

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