Richie Mo'unga starts at fly-half for New Zealand for Bledisloe Cup game against Australia

Richie Mo’unga has been preferred at fly-half
Richie Mo’unga has been preferred at fly-half

New Zealand head coach Ian Foster has named Richie Mo'unga at fly-half for the Bledisloe Cup opening game against Australia scheduled at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.

Beauden Barrett has been named on the bench providing cover to Mo'unga, who will form halfback partnership with Aaron Smith. It will also be a milestone game for Smith as he is set to play his 100th Test for the All Blacks since making his debut in 2012.

Sevu Reece starts at right wing while Reiko Ioane shifts to left with Damian McKenzie slots at fullback. Anton Lienert-Brown and David Havili form midfield partnership while Brodie Retallick returns at second row partnering with skipper Sam Whitelock.

While the front row is unchanged from their previous game against Fiji, Ardie Savea is the preferred number eight with Dalton Papalii at openside and Akira Ioane at blindside.

Beauden is joined by Scott Barrett, Jordie Barrett, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Angus Ta’avao, Brad Weber and Luke Jacobson on the bench. Props Joe Moody and Ofa Tuungafasi were unavailable for selection due to injuries.

“There is huge excitement in our group at what lies ahead this weekend.

"There is such a huge history with the Bledisloe Cup, the rivalry between the All Blacks and Australia goes back a long, long way, and it’s always a massive contest. The Cup isn’t ours; we have to go out and win it again.

"We can’t wait for the weekend.”

New Zealand XV: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 David Havili, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Samuel Whitelock (c), 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower

Reserves: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Jordie Barrett