Uncapped rising stars Damian McKenzie and Rieko Ioane are among five players called into an injury-hit All Blacks squad for Saturday’s rematch with the chastened Wallabies in Wellington.
The additions came as hooker Codie Taylor, inside centre Ryan Crotty (both head knocks) and winger Waisake Naholo (hamstring) were ruled out in the wake of last Saturday’s 42-8 thumping of the Wallabies in the Rugby Championship opener in Sydney.
Midfielder George Moala and hooker Nathan Harris had been ruled out earlier in the week with serious knee injuries suffered while training in Sydney.
In their places coach Steve Hansen summoned dynamic young backs McKenzie and Ioane plus Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman, Blues rake James Parsons and Chiefs centre Seta Tamanivalu.
“It’s a great opportunity in a year when we’re trying to re-establish ourselves, trying to get some faces involved in the group that in the long term could possibly be here,” Hansen told reporters in Wellington.
Diminutive utility McKenzie, 21, was one of the players of the Super Rugby season with his blistering attacking game.
The 19-year-old Ioane, who Hansen has earmarked as a potential centre, has just returned from the Rio Olympics, where he was part of New Zealand’s rugby sevens team.
The uncapped Coltman and Parsons, who was a replacement on the end of season tour in 2014, were called in to alleviate the crisis at hooker.
The loss of both Harris and Taylor meant Hansen was forced to field first-choice Dane Coles, despite the Wellington Hurricanes hooker suffering pain from a rib cartilage injury.
Coles ended up playing for more than 75 minutes in Sydney, with Taylor being replaced after a head knock in the opening minutes.