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All Blacks v England Rugby World Cup

New Zealand have unexpectedly beefed up their forward pack for Saturday's Rugby World Cup semifinal against England with star flanker Sam Cane benched in favor of big lock Scott Barrett.

Up to this point the All Blacks have aimed to play at the extreme pace at the World Cup, with Cane joining Ardie Savea in the first string lineup and a third specialist openside, Matt Todd, used off the bench.

But with Todd unavailable due to a shoulder injury, Kiwi coach Steve Hansen has opted to shuffle his pack for the high stakes showdown in Yokohama.

Barrett clocks in at 1.98m and 117kg and usually plays in the second row.

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New Zealand lock Scott Barrett carries the ball at Tokyo Stadium.
New Zealand lock Scott Barrett carries the ball at Tokyo Stadium.Source: AFP

But the 25-year-old is athletic and has experience packing down at blindside.

Still, the decision to bench Cane come as a surprise.

The 27-year-old has captured his country in two Tests and is a strong contender to replace All Blacks skipper Kieran Read when he withdraws from international rugby after the tournament.

The rest of the starting XV remains the same from the 46-14 quarterfinal win over Ireland, with lock / blindside Patrick Tuipulotu taking Todd's spot on the bench.

Like the All Blacks, England have until now been playing with two fetchers in their backrow – Tom Curry and Sam Underhill.

But New Zealand now have four genuine jumpers in their pack in Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Barrett and Read.


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Sam Cane and Scott Barrett of the All Blacks run drills at Tatsuminomori Seaside Park.
Sam Cane and Scott Barrett of the All Blacks run drills at Tatsuminomori Seaside Park.Source: Getty Images

“We've made some decisions around how we want to play and we've made that change because of it,” Hansen said.

“The bench is so important in today's game – we always talk about 23.

“There's still a thought process where the best players always start.

“That's not always the case.

“Some guys are better finishers than starters.

“We're fortunate we've got some big hitters on the bench.

“They'll get a great opportunity.”

Hansen also sought to ramp up the pressure on England, who floppped at the 2015 World Cup.

“There's no doubt this is a huge game and there's a lot of excitement around it,” Hansen said.

“We know what we have to do and we've had a great week's preparation.

“The team is exactly where we want to be, mentally and physically, ahead of the weekend.

“We're really looking forward to this opportunity.

“It's all about this game and the moments it will bring.

“In these moments, the word pressure is bandied around quite readily.

“However, that pressure is always there whenever you play quality opposition, regardless of who you are.

“It's about how you handle that in the moment and not getting distracted by the past or the future.

“Both teams have a common goal, which is to make the final.

“However, we've arrived at this point with vastly different experiences from previous Rugby World Cups.

“No doubt, those experiences will resurface throughout the week and even in the game itself.

“Let's hope the game lives up to the expectation that both teams will have, and is one for the ages.”

England name their side later on Thursday, with coach Eddie Jones tipped to reinstate George Ford to the No 10 jersey and shift captain Owen Farrell to inside center.

ALL BLACKS: Beauden Barrett, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (c), Ardie Savea, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody

Reserves: Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Angus Ta'avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett

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