Ryan Crotty will slot into his more comfortable inside centre role alongside Crusaders teammate Jack Goodhue. Picture: ACTION IMAGES/REUTERS/PETER CZIBORRA
Ryan Crotty will slot into his more comfortable inside centre role alongside Crusaders teammate Jack Goodhue. Picture: ACTION IMAGES/REUTERS/PETER CZIBORRA

Dublin — Midfield back Ryan Crotty was the only change to the All Blacks side that started against England as New Zealand coach Steve Hansen named his strongest available team for their mouthwatering clash against Ireland here on Saturday.

Crotty will slot into his more comfortable inside centre role alongside Crusaders teammate Jack Goodhue.

The 30-year-old comes into the side Hansen named on Thursday as a replacement for Sonny Bill Williams who was injured in the England match.

Last Saturday, Crotty came on for Williams after about 30 minutes in atrocious conditions at Twickenham and immediately settled the All Blacks, who were struggling to recover from a 15-0 deficit against Eddie Jones’s side.

Crotty’s elevation to the starting side left a vacant position on the bench, which will be filled by Waikato Chiefs back Anton Lienert-Brown.

Hansen resisted the temptation to make any further changes against the world’s second-ranked side and stuck with the dual playmaker option from last week, with Damian McKenzie retained at fullback and Beauden Barrett at flyhalf.

The world champions resorted to a tactical kicking game in London because of the weather and struggled to get any front-foot ball against a fired-up England.

Crotty, however, provided some midfield thrust as the All Blacks changed tactics to hold the ball for longer.

Hansen said he expected a similarly intense match against the Six Nations champions. “On Saturday, we’ll be playing an opponent who will want to keep the ball for long periods of time, and if they aren’t getting what they want, then they’ll kick and try to pressure us.

“For us, we’ll need to be strong at set piece, both on our ball and theirs, and be prepared to work hard with or without the ball,” Hansen said.

“When the momentum comes our way, we’ll need to take the opportunities that will come, as the team that makes the most of their opportunities will win the game.”

New Zealand squad:

15-Damian McKenzie, 14-Ben Smith, 13-Jack Goodhue, 12-Ryan Crotty, 11-Rieko Ioane, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read (capt), 7-Ardie Savea, 6-Liam Squire, 5-Sam  Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-Karl Tu’inukuafe.

Replacements:

16-Dane Coles, 17-Ofa Tuungafasi, 18-Nepo Laulala, 19-Scott Barrett, 20-Matt Todd, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Richie Mo’unga, 23-Anton Lienert-Brow.

Reuters