Smith will skip DC as the most capped AB comeback

Scrum-half Aaron Smith has been named in New Zealand’s squad to face Wales on Saturday as he overtakes Dan Carter as the most capped defender in All Blacks history.

Smith, who will play his 113th Test, will join fly-half Richie Mo’unga while Beauden Barrett has been named full-back.

The 33-year-old made his All Blacks debut in 2012 and was a key member of the team that won the 2015 Rugby World Cup. He still has some way to go to beat Richie McCaw’s overall record to the New Zealand tests of 148.

Smith is one of many veterans to return after the All Blacks kicked off their year-end tour with a painstaking 38-31 win over Japan in Tokyo.

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“We’ve just had a month’s break, it’s our second full week,” coach Ian Foster said.

“We’re bringing a number of guys who didn’t play last week into the squad, the challenge for us is to get our combination really strong, really quickly.

“The Welsh are going to demand that because they’re a passionate team, they play a very effective game at a high pace and if we’re not on our game you end up chasing them.

“We love playing here and we’re really ready for what we know is going to be a really physical encounter.”

Jordie Barrett was once again given the nod in the middle, joining Rieko Ioane in midfield. David Havili and Anton Lienert-Brown will provide coverage.

“It’s a chance to give Jordie another start at this position in a different environment against a different team,” Foster said of Barrett’s selection at inside center.

“It gives us the opportunity to use David off the bench and maybe use Jordie in a different role later in the game.”

Caleb Clarke and Sevu Reece retain their spots on the wing. The front row of Ethan de Groot, Codie Taylor and Tyrel Lomax came together in a tight five that also welcomed the return to form of Scott Barrett, the third of the Barrett brothers in the Race XV.

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He is partnered at the lock by captain Samuel Whitelock in the absence of Brodie Retallick, who was handed a two-match ban after being shown a red card for a shoulder charge in the game against Japan.

The loose attacking trio Ardie Savea, Dalton Papali’i and Shannon Frizell complete the attacking group.

“Playing Wales on the road is always an exciting challenge,” said Foster, with the All Blacks having not lost to Wales in 32 games since 1953.

“We have a number of players coming back to the side and we know we will have to play with high intensity against this physical Welsh side.

“Last year the roof of the Principality Stadium was open due to Covid regulations, but this time it will be closed. This will ensure an incredible atmosphere for fans and players.

Foster has also confirmed that winger Will Jordan will not be taking part in this tour due to a persistent vestibular issue.

The problem “is not to progress quickly, so rather than him or us putting pressure around his return to the game, it is better to make a decision early and leave him, show up and come back next year”, a- he explained.

New Zealand – 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock (c), 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ethan de Groot.
Subs: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Brad Weber, 22 David Havili, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.

Wales – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Tommy Refell, 6 Justin Tipuric (c), 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gareth Thomas.
Subs: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Christ Tshiunza, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Owen Watkin.

© Agence France-Presse

Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

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