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The All Blacks team to play Wales in the Rugby World Cup bronze medal match at Tokyo Stadium on Friday.
Steve Hansen’s All Blacks are clearly still hurting as they trudge a little disconsolately into Friday’s bronze medal match against Wales at this Rugby World Cup. And the departing coach wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hansen unveiled a predictable lineup on Wednesday in Tokyo featuring the core of the side toppled 19-7 by England in last weekend’s semifinal, with a sprinkling of fresh faces, including a quartet of departing All Blacks on their last lap of the track.
There are seven changes to the starting XV and another three on the bench for the match no one wants to play in, but goes ahead anyway because, frankly, it is just too big a money-maker for World Rugby.
In the tight five Dane Coles starts at hooker, with a bruised and battered Codie Taylor rested, and Scott Barrett shifts from the blindside flank to lock, with Sam Whitelock also spelled for similar reasons. It’s a big statement test for a group physically battered last week by the English.
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In the loose Sam Cane returns from his surprise semifinal benching to start at No 7 and Shannon Frizell gets a deserved crack on the blindside flank. They too have plenty to prove as a unit after being bested by Eddie Jones’ men last week.
In the backs the departing Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty get the start in midfield while veteran Ben Smith (another heading for the exit door) and Rieko Ioane come on to the wings for a tragically belated crack. Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett remain in their respective “playmaking” roles, and Aaron Smith stays at halfback with TJ Perenara nursing stitches and a sore shoulder.
Prop Atu Moli, departing loosie Matt Todd and speedy halfback Brad Weber are the new faces on the bench.
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