New Zealand make two changes for third Test
New Zealand rugby union player Kieran Read addresses a press conference following a training session in Dublin, Ireland, on November 20, 2013 - by Peter Muhly
Coach Steve Hansen said he'd decided not to try new combinations with the series already won as he looks to develop his preferred run-on side, who were far from perfect in winning the first two Tests 20-15 and 28-27.
"Whilst we felt we improved from the first Test to the second, there are areas of our game we want to improve on and that has been the focus for us this week," he said when naming the side on Thursday.
Read's return at the back of the scrum was expected after he was cleared of the concussion issues that have sidelined him for most of the past two months while fledgling international Fekitoa earns promotion with Conrad Smith out injured.
It has been a rapid rise to stardom for the talented Fekitoa who has blossomed this year with the Otago Highlanders after being rejected by the Auckland Blues.
After getting a taste of international rugby off the bench in the first Test he earns his first start with Smith ruled out with a broken thumb.
The return of Read, the world player of the year, sees Jerome Kaino move to the side of the scrum and Liam Messam dropping back to the bench.
Hansen's desire to improve suggests the quality rugby the All Blacks produced when they ran in three tries in the third-quarter of the second Test is the standard he wants to see for the full 80.
Also at stake for the All Blacks is equalling the record for a tier one nation of 17 consecutive Test victories currently held by the 1965-69 All Blacks and 1997-98 Springboks.
The last time the All Blacks were on the cusp of equalling the record was when they played Australia in Brisbane two years ago and the match ended in an 18-18 draw.
In the second Test against England last week, fly-half Beauden Barrett set a world record for never being on a losing side with his 18th win from 18 Tests.
Ben Smith; Cory Jane, Malakai Fekitoa, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea; Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Liam Messam, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Ryan Crotty.
New Zealand lead the three-Test series 2-0.