A hamstring injury has knocked second-test hero Dan Carter out of Saturday night's test at Waikato Stadium, while Crusaders team-mate Luke Romano is a surprise addition in the second row.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has boldly made six changes to the XV who started in last weekend's gripping 22-19 win over Ireland at AMI Stadium with first five-eighths Carter and No 8 Kieran Read (concussion) not considered because of injury.
A major talking point is the absence of Carter, who kicked the winning drop goal in Christchurch, after the All Blacks last night revealed he tweaked his hamstring at training on Tuesday.
Aaron Cruden, who will make his 12th test appearance, replaces Carter.
"On assessment, he has suffered a mild hamstring strain to his right leg which has unfortunately ruled him out of this weekend's test," Hansen said.
"He will undergo further assessment over the next few days to determine when he will be fit to return to rugby."
Ireland, who are scheduled to arrive in Hamilton this afternoon following four nights in Queenstown, will undoubtedly feel invigorated by more than just the crisp mountain air this morning.
The prospect of facing a re-jigged All Blacks side without their backline maestro Carter will ensure they will not lack enthusiasm as they attempt to win the final test before returning home.
Two other changes have been made to the backline: Ben Smith and Hosea Gear replace Zac Guildford and Julian Savea on the wings. Tamati Ellison provides outside back cover in the reserves.
Although Hansen has resisted the urge to start Keven Mealamu, who has been recovering from a pulled calf muscle, a combination of injury and the desire to promote Romano has given the forward pack a new look.
Romano comes in for Brodie Retallick in a pack that will field a new back-row combination. Richie McCaw shifts to No 8 and Chiefs team-mates Sam Cane and Liam Messam are listed on the flanks.
Cane, who impressed in the second half in Christchurch last weekend after Read was forced off with a head knock, starts in McCaw's No 7 spot.
The arrival of Messam, who has only joined the squad this week after Victor Vito was injured in the first test in Auckland, has forced Adam Thomson's shift to the bench.
Overlooked for last month's training squad, Messam has a real chance to prove to Hansen he deserves consideration for the Rugby Championship.
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.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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