Milner-Skudder to debut for All Blacks

Hurricanes outside back Nehe Milner-Skudder has recovered from a rib injury and will make his Test debut on the right wing in the All Blacks’ opening Bledisloe Cup Test against the Wallabies in Sydney.

A quick runner possessing an elusive step, the 24-year-old has had a breakthrough Super Rugby campaign after making his first appearance off the bench in late February.

He has All Blacks pedigree in his family – cousin Buff Milner (1969) and uncle George Skudder (1970) each earning a Test cap.

Milner-Skudder will have a huge amount of experience around him when he runs out at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night for a match that also doubles as the Rugby Championship decider.

There are 868 caps in the All Blacks starting 15, led by skipper Richie McCaw, who will be playing his 141st Test, equalling Irishman Brian O’Driscoll’s world record.

There are two other centurions in prop Tony Woodcock and first five-eighth Dan Carter.

The inclusions of Milner-Skudder and Carter are among six personnel changes from the run-on side that began the 27-20 win over South Africa in Johannesburg.

Also coming in are lock Luke Romano, blindside flanker Jerome Kaino, second five-eighth Sonny Bill Williams and winger Julian Savea, while Ben Smith shifts from wing to fullback.

There are two changes on the bench, with prop Nepo Laulala and openside flanker Sam Cane added.

Coach Steve Hansen says the All Blacks are preparing for a “brutal” challenge against the Michael Cheika coached Wallabies.

“The Bledisloe Cup is an important trophy for New Zealand rugby and for this team, and Australia is one of our oldest opponents,” he said.

“We are well aware that they have made improvements and that their coach wants them to be more physical and more consistent.”

But Hansen said the All Blacks were also looking to lift their game from their performance against the Springboks at Ellis Park.

“This means we will need to bring physicality, intensity and accuracy to the occasion,” he said.

“I am picking this to be a brutal contest and one we are looking forward to. It will be about us implementing our game plan and skill sets for 80-plus minutes.”

Meanwhile, several players have been released to play in pre-season provincial matches: Jeremy Thrush (Wellington); Colin Slade, Matt Todd and Patrick Osborne (Canterbury); James Broadhurst (Taranaki).

ALL BLACKS: Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Julian Savea, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Jerome Kaino, Luke Romano, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock.

Reserves: Codie Taylor, Ben Franks, Nepo Laulala, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa.

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