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All Blacks: Rieko Ioane returns to No 13 for test against Ireland in Dublin

Rieko Ioane has been in flying form, whether it's at centre, or on the wing, during the 2021 season.

Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Rieko Ioane has been in flying form, whether it’s at centre, or on the wing, during the 2021 season.

It’s back to the No 13 jersey for Rieko Ioane as All Blacks coach Ian Foster continues his search for the perfect midfield combination in the test against Ireland in Dublin on Sunday morning.

The decision to pair Ioane with second five-eighth Anton Lienert-Brown has resulted in David Havili being relegated to the reserves bench, and Sevu Reece has been named on the left wing to fill the vacancy created by Ioane’s transfer.

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Foster was always expected to name his strongest line-up for the penultimate match of the season, and as a consequence Reece is the only player to be retained in the run-on team from the one that started the unimpressive 47-9 win over Italy in Rome last weekend.

Hooker Dane Coles has been named on the bench as back-up for Codie Taylor. There is no room for specialist openside flanker Sam Cane in the match-day 23, with Dalton Papalii at No 7, and Beauden Barrett will start at first-five ahead of Richie Mo’unga.

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Experienced halfback Aaron Smith, who arrived in Dublin from New Zealand mid-week, hasn’t been asked to suit up despite Brad Weber, who was under an injury cloud after leaving the field in Rome with a facial injury, not being considered.

Halfback TJ Perenara celebrates his 17th try for the All Blacks in fitting fashion against the Welsh in Cardiff.

Matt Impey/Photosport

Halfback TJ Perenara celebrates his 17th try for the All Blacks in fitting fashion against the Welsh in Cardiff.

TJ Perenara will start at No 9, with Finlay Christie recovering from a neck complaint to be rewarded with a spot in the reserves.

This XV is almost a carbon copy of the one that started the 54-16 win over Wales in Cardiff on October 30, as the All Blacks aim to sweep through their last two tests against Ireland and France, in Paris next weekend, unbeaten.

Foster said the decision to push the big, powerful Ioane back to centre was influenced by the way he played in that position in the latter stages of the game against Wales.

“That’s the way we finished the Welsh game, with Anton moving in, Rieko moving to centre and Sevu on the wing,” Foster said. “It’s a little bit of a reward for that combination. We’ve been able to use this series of games and the time together to try different things and thought a little change there would be good for us.

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“We’re also pretty excited at the impact that Finlay, David and Richie will have off the bench.”

This is not the first time Ioane and Lienert-Brown have combined in the midfield this year, as Foster has mixed his selections and continued to keep an open mind on the former’s potential at No 13.

Despite the length of the tour, which began when the squad departed New Zealand in late August, Foster has carefully managed his players’ workload.

With the majority of this team watching the Italy match from the stands, they will be fresh for what promises to be an intense and physical encounter at Aviva Stadium.

Although the All Blacks will have fond memories of their last encounter against Ireland, when they thumped them 46-14 in the World Cup quarterfinal in Japan in 2019, they won’t have forgotten their most recent visit to Dublin.

In 2018 Ireland beat the All Blacks 16-9 at Aviva Stadium; it was a rugged clash, with the home side buoyed by their 52,000 fans to record their first win on home soil over the New Zealanders.

Last weekend Ireland beat Japan 60-5 in Dublin.

SKY SPORT

English pitch invader Daniel Jarvis joined Japan for the national anthem before their test against Ireland in Dublin.

“We’ve watched Ireland’s development this year with interest, particularly through the latter part of the Six Nations and last week’s big win over Japan,” Foster said.

“They are certainly playing with confidence and ambition and represent a formidable challenge.

“We have no doubt what Saturday is going to bring at a full Aviva Stadium.”

All Blacks: Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sevu Reece, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Ardie Savea, Dalton Papalii, Ethan Blackadder, Sam Whitelock (captain), Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Reserves: Dane Coles, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Tyrel Lomax, Tupou Vaa’i, Akira Ioane, Finlay Christie, Richie Mo’unga, David Havili.



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