Injured Dan Carter out of All Blacks for third test
Dan Carter is out with a hamstring injury in a dramatic turn of events that has turned the All Blacks' third test against Ireland into anything but a dead rubber.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has fearlessly made six changes to the side that started the 22-19 win in Christchurch, with lock Luke Romano to make his debut in place of Brodie Retallick in a revamped pack.
In a new-look loose trio, Richie McCaw takes over at No 8 from Kieran Read, who has been ruled out due to concussion, with Liam Messam at blindside and Sam Cane on the openside in what will be his first test start.
In the backs, Aaron Cruden will wear the No 10 jersey after Carter pulled up lame after training on Tuesday, while Hosea Gear and Ben Smith go on to the wings.
Retallick and loose forward Adam Thomson drop to a new-look reserves bench that includes Taranaki rookie Beauden Barrett, Highlanders utility back Tamati Ellison and veteran hooker Keven Mealamu.
Wings Zac Guildford and Julian Savea drop out of the squad altogether.
Hansen indicated the changes were in part because his side had not performed to expectation in Christchurch.
The All Blacks by their own admission weren't happy with the way they performed on Saturday and in part this was a credit to the way the Irish played, he said. "They have laid down the challenge and the key will be now how we respond."
Of most significance is the absence of Carter, who will undergo further tests in the next few days to determine how long he will be out of rugby.
Cruden makes his fourth test start and first since the World Cup final, and where such a selection might previously have sent the nation into panic attacks it is unlikely to cause more than a flutter.
Cruden, 23, is a readymade replacement on a ground he has made his own this season for the Chiefs and will reunite his successful combination with second five-eighth Sonny Bill Williams.
The selection of Romano, 26, may be greeted with less ease. It suggests an effort to add grunt to a scrum that struggled badly last time out, but it's unclear why Thomson, who broke his nose in Christchurch, has been relegated to the bench.
It may be to add some energy and ball-carrying finesse with Messam champing at the bit in what will be his first test since he started at No 8 against South Africa during last year's Tri-Nations. That was also the last time Gear wore the black jersey.
Playing his 10th test, it will be only the third time Messam has started at blindside.
And it will mean McCaw wears the All Blacks' No 8 jersey in what will be his 100th test start of his career, a feat achieved by only two other forwards, South Africa's Victor Matfield and England's Jason Leonard.
Mealamu returns for the first time since injuring his calf playing for the Blues in early April, then missing the first two tests as a precaution.
ALL BLACKS: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Hosea Gear, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Richie McCaw (c), Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Brodie Retallick, Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Beauden Barrett, Tamati Ellison.
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The Dominion Post