Sonny Bill Williams has been named in centres for the All Blacks as the world champions seek a ‘statement’ victory over England on Saturday.
The cross-code star will partner Jack Goodhue, who has recovered from glandular fever to start in the midfield at Twickenham.
The two sides will meet for the first time since 2014 and Kiwi coach Steve Hansen has named a fully-loaded side, with prop Joe Moody the only surprise omission due to an eye injury.
Sonny Bill Williams has kept his place in the All Blacks team to play England on Saturday
Jack Goodhue returns to the All Blacks side following a bout of glandular fever
Damian McKenzie keeps his place at fullback in the All Blacks side to play at Twickenham
New Zealand team to play England
Damian McKenzie, Ben Smith, Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (captain), Ardie Savea, Liam Squire, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Reserves: Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, T.J. Perenara, Richie Mo’unga, Ryan Crotty.
Moody required three layers of stitches after lacerating his eyelid in training, with former bouncer Karl Tu’inukuafe stepping in at prop.
‘Joe Moody has found a way to get himself injured in unusual fashion this year,’ said Hansen said. ‘Anyone else it would probably have missed his eye.
‘Plastic surgeon has recommended the six weeks and as our doctor described it your eyelid is your window washer so if you’ve got half of it missing you can’t wipe your eye so it will impact your eyesight long term, so we need to make sure he is okay.’
The other main area of debate, in the back-three, has seen playmaker Damian McKenzie selected ahead of lighting-fast winger Waisake Naholo.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen watches on during a training session in London this week
Brodie Retallick returns to the starting line-up in place of Dane Coles this weekend
McKenzie will start at full-back, pushing Ben Smith onto the wing alongside Rieko Ioane.
The selection of McKenzie over Naholo takes the play-making pressure off Beuaden Barrett, but also better equips the Kiwis for the threat of high balls.
‘We think Damian is very good in the air,’ said Hansen. ‘Bend is world-class. Rieko is very good receiving them; he’s still got a bit of work to do chasing them. All the other qualities he’s got I think we can cope with that one not quite being world-class.’
Aaron Smith returns at scrum-half in his ongoing duel with TJ Perenara for the No 9 jersey.
With the exception of Tu’inukuafe, the front-five has a familiar feel with Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks and Codie Taylor all retaining their places.
Ardie Savea continues to start at flanker in place of the injured Sam Cane, with Kieran Read and Liam Squire completing the back-row.
‘We know we’ll be up against a very determined and well-coached English side,’ said Hansen. ‘They’ll have gained a lot of confidence from their win over South Africa and be keen to make a statement in front of their passionate Twickenham home crowd.
‘However, for us it’s about making our own statement. To do that, we’ll need to bring our own intensity and accuracy to an even higher level throughout the game. It’s a great opportunity to assess where our game is at and we’re really looking forward to it.’