All Blacks welcome back Aaron Smith for Ireland showdown
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has confounded the rumours by not resting Kieran Read and Beauden Barrett for Saturday’s showdown against Ireland at Soldiers Field, and has also recalled scrum-half Aaron Smith, who has missed their last three tests.
It was thought that Hansen may rest skipper Reed for the Chicago encounter, and select Liam Squire at No.8, but he will take his place at the base of the scrum, flanked by Sam Cane and the aforementioned Squire.
Barrett, who had been in scintillating form all season, was below par against Australia last time out, but Hansen has resisted the urge to recall Aaron Cruden, who starts on the bench.
Ben Smith lines out at full-back, with Waisake Naholo and Julian Savea on the right and left wings respectively. Ryan Crotty partners George Moala in midfield, while Smith and Barrett comprise the most potent half-back paring in the game.
Up front Joe Moody, Dane Coles and Owen Franks make up the front row, while Patrick Tuipulotu is in the second row with usual blindside Jerome Kaino, a direct result of the absences of Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano and Brodie Retallick.
Joe Schmidt is set to name the Ireland team at 7.15pm Irish ttime.
All Blacks team to face Ireland: Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo, George Moala, Ryan Crotty, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Patrick Tuipulotu is, Jerome Kaino, Liam Squire, Sam Cane, Kieran Read.
Replacements: Codie Taylor, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Charlie Fauimuina, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Malakai Fekitoa.