Goodhue, Lienert-Brown in All Blacks midfield for Ireland
TOKYO (AP) — Jack Goodhue and Anton Lienert-Brown will combine in midfield in the most vexed selection in the All Blacks team named Thursday to play Ireland Saturday in a Rugby World Cup quarterfinal.
New Zealand had four strong options for two midfield positions, choosing Goodhue after only 11 tests and Lienert-Brown, who has been among its best players at the tournament. Sonny Bill Williams is on the bench to add off-loading ability late in the game while veteran Ryan Crotty was omitted.
Goodhue has struggled throughout the tournament with a minor hamstring strain but is a line-breaker who fits better into the All Blacks’ intended game plan.
Richie Mo’unga starts at flyhalf, at age 25 joining Grant Fox, Carlos Spencer, Andrew Mehrtens and Dan Carter among players who have worn the All Blacks No. 10 jersey in World Cup knockout rounds. Beauden Barrett is at fullback.
Mo’unga has made the flyhalf position his own since he took over from Barrett in that role this year as the All Blacks continued to pursue a two playmaker role after the season-ending injury to fullback Damian McKenzie.
His confident performances through the World Cup so far and New Zealand’s increasing familiarity with dual playmakers made his selection inevitable.
New Zealand has gambled on the fitness of lock Brodie Retallick who has played only one match in three months after sustaining a dislocated shoulder injury during a Rugby Championship test against South Africa in July. Retallick returned in the pool match against Namibia on Oct. 6.
Veteran fullback Ben Smith has been displaced from the reserves bench by utility Jordie Barrett meaning all three Barrett brothers — Beauden, Jordie and lock Scott — are in the match 23.
Codie Taylor will start at hooker ahead of Dane Coles who is on the bench.
New Zealand has retained wingers Sevu Reece and George Bridge, who share only 12 test appearances. The young pair have claimed the wing roles from Smith and Rieko Ioane, sharpening rhe All Blacks attacking play.
Aaron Smith will start at scrumhalf with T.J. Perenara on the bench as the All Blacks selectors have stuck with their experienced pair in the face of the strong performances of Brad Weber.
“There’s a lot of energy and excitement in the team which is normal for this stage of the tournament where the winner takes all,” head coach Steve Hansen said. “It will add extra pressure to both sides.
“We feel we’ve selected a great mixture of talent in our 23 who are in great form, and the squad includes many players who have a lot of Rugby World Cup knockout match experience.”
The All Blacks match 23 has a collective 1,075 test caps, led by captain Kieran Read who will play his 125th test on Saturday.