Mo'unga replaces injured Barrett as All Blacks 'inject freshness' for France

·2-min read
Richie Mo'unga takes part in a training session in Paris this week (AFP/Anne-Christine POUJOULAT)

Richie Mo'unga will start at fly-half instead of the injured Beauden Barrett for this weekend's highly-anticipated Test with France, New Zealand Rugby announced on Tuesday.

Barrett failed a head injury assessment during last Saturday's defeat in Ireland.

Mo'unga will be partnered at half-back by Aaron Smith, who will make his first appearance of the tour in Saturday's dress rehearsal for the opening game of the 2023 Rugby World Cup after missing away victories over the USA, Italy and Wales due to paternity leave.

"We've been on the road for a long time and I don't think we were as sharp as we needed to be," head coach Ian Foster told reporters.

"We've gone down the path of making a few changes to maximise the energy. He (Smith) is one of them.

"For this game here we really felt the team looked a little bit off the mark last week and bringing fresh legs is exactly what we need.

"We've seen that injection of mental freshness come through this week," he added.

The new faces for Saturday's game in Paris also include hooker Dane Coles, back-rowers Akira Ioane and Sam Cane, George Bridge and centre Quinn Tupaea.

Front-rower Codie Taylor, flankers Ethan Blackadder and Dalton Papali'i and winger Sevu Reece drop out of the squad completely.

Tupaea, 22, replaces the injured Anton Lienert-Brown in midfield to make just his seventh Test appearance.

"First year All Black, young, still has bit of a spark to him," Foster said.

"He has shown massive respect to learn the role and to contribute.

"He's a hard runner, good over the ball and an enthusiastic chaser. He does a whole lot of good things in the game," Foster added.

The All Blacks last lost in Paris in 1973 but have been knocked out at a Rugby World Cup twice by Les Bleus.

"There's a mutual respect between our two countries built over years and years. Kiwis have always loved the way the French play, there's a flair about them that we've always been drawn to. They have knocked us over in some pretty big moments in history."

"They are a young, formidable team building in confidence and they've been targeting this match," he added.

New Zealand team (15-1)

Jordie Barrett; Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Quinn Tupaea, George Bridge; Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Akira Ioane; Samuel Whitelock (capt), Brodie Retallick; Nepo Laulala, Dane Coles, Joe Moody

Replacements: Samisoni Taukei'aho, George Bower, Osa Tuungafasi, Tupou Vaa'i, Shannon Frizell, Brad Webber, Damian McKenzie, David Havili

Coach: Ian Foster (NZL)

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