All Blacks go for continuity as Christie gets nod to start second Test

All Blacks go for continuity as Christie gets nod to start second Test

A week after All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson sprang a minor surprise by naming Stephen Perofeta as the starting fullback ahead of the vastly experienced Beauden Barrett, there is another today: an unchanged line-up for the second Test apart from Finlay Christie as the starting halfback, as expected.

Christie gets his chance at Eden Park on Saturday due to TJ Perenara’s knee injury suffered in the 16-15 victory in Dunedin. Perenara’s comeback timing is uncertain but he is still with the squad and in fact was walking around the team hotel this morning wearing a compression bandage but otherwise looking fit and well.

Chiefs halfback Cortez Ratima gets the back-up role – also as expected.

Assistant coach Jason Holland hinted at changes earlier in the week, but other than Christie’s inclusion the All Blacks’ starting line-up is the same as that which took the field at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The selectors have not been tempted to tinker with the outside backs – and there was a school of thought that suggested Barrett could come in for Perofeta this week – and neither have they changed the loose forward make-up, which means Dalton Papali’i, Ardie Savea and Samipeni Finau retain their places.

Jordie Barrett and Rieko Ioane keep their places in the midfield, and there is continuity as expected within the tight five, who performed well in the first Test as the All Blacks retained the Hillary Shield.

“Finlay has worked hard and earned his place in the starting side and it will be a proud day for Cortez and his whānau,” Robertson said in a statement.

“He’s a talented young man who is ready for Test footy. We can feel New Zealand’s support here in Auckland and we will hear it at a sold-out Eden Park. “It’s a very special venue for the All Blacks, and we’re going there on Saturday to win the series against England.”

The All Blacks’ winning record at Eden Park stretches back to 1994 and has included 48 wins and two draws since.

All Blacks match-day 23

(Test caps in brackets)

1. Ethan de Groot (23), 2. Codie Taylor (86), 3. Tyrel Lomax (33), 4. Scott Barrett (70) (Captain), 5. Patrick Tuipulotu (44), 6. Samipeni Finau (2), 7. Dalton Papali’i (33), 8. Ardie Savea (82) (Vice Captain), 9. Finlay Christie (22), 10. Damian McKenzie (48), 11. Mark Tele’a (10), 12. Jordie Barrett (58) (Vice Captain), 13. Rieko Ioane (70), 14. Sevu Reece (24), 15. Stephen Perofeta (4).

Reservations: 16. Asafo Aumua (7), 17. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (58), 18. Fletcher Newell (14), 19. Tupou Vaa’i (26), 20. Luke Jacobson (19), 21. Cortez Tatima (0)*, 22. Anton Lienert-Brown (71), 23. Beauden Barrett (124).