SONNY Bill Williams and Jack Goodhue will finally be unleashed in the All Blacks midfield as coach Steve Hansen unveiled a powerful lineup to play England in a blockbuster Test that has been four years in the making.
Hansen has made no secret of his desire to use Williams and Goodhue as his starting centres this season but those plans have been repeatedly scuppered through a combination of injury and illness.
Barring another late setback, they will form an imposing challenge to Eddie Jones’ England in the first Test between the two teams since 2014.
The top All Blacks spent extra time in London preparing for Sunday’s (2am AEDT) Twickenham Test while the second stringers beat Japan 69-31 in Tokyo last weekend.
ALL BLACKS (15-1): Damian McKenzie, Ben Smith, Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (c), 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, TJ Perenara, Richie Mo’unga, Ryan Crotty
ENGLAND (15-1): Elliot Daly, Chris Ashton, Henry Slade, Ben Te’o, Jonny May, Owen Farrell (co-c), Ben Youngs, Mark Wilson, Sam Underhill, Brad Shields, George Kruis, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Dylan Hartley (co-c), Ben Moon
Reserves: Jamie George, Alec Hepburn, Harry Williams, Charlie Ewels, Courtney Lawes, Danny Care, George Ford, Jack Nowell
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Karl Tu’inukuafe will start at looshead prop after Joe Moody’s freak eye injury while halfback Aaron Smith has regained his No 9 jersey from TJ Perenara.
Damian McKenzie, Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane form the same back three that beat Australia in Yokohama while hooker Dane Coles earns a place on the bench after making his comeback against the Brave Blossoms.
“There’s huge anticipation at what lies ahead on Saturday (local time) and the team is certainly looking forward to the challenge of the weekend,” Hansen said.
“Our week’s preparation has been very good.
“We’ve spent the early part of our week getting our preparation right and clarity of our roles and been building throughout the week so we’re ready to go on Saturday.
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“We know we’ll be up against a very determined and well coached English side.
“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.”
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