Foster starts Mo’unga at 10 for All Blacks with job on line
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Richie Mo’unga will start at No. 10 and Beauden Barrett was dropped to the bench as Ian Foster made four changes to New Zealand’s starting team on Thursday with his job on the line in the second Rugby Championship test against South Africa.
Foster chose Mo’unga to direct the All Blacks’ attack in what has developed into a must-win game for the coach against the Springboks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
New Zealand is in its worst run of form for 24 years having lost five of its last six tests and Foster is expected to be out of his job if the All Blacks go down again to the Springboks. South Africa won 26-10 last Saturday in the Rugby Championship opener in Mbombela, New Zealand’s biggest loss to its old rival since the 1920s.
Foster also made three switches in his forward pack, which was outmuscled at scrum time and at the breakdown in Mbombela. Props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax were promoted from the bench to start while Shannon Frizell, a tryscorer off the bench in Mbombela, runs on at blindside flank.
Mo’unga is the only change to the backline. New Zealand also brought hooker Codie Taylor back onto the bench after he missed out completely in the first game and uncapped prop Fletcher Newell is given a chance in the reserves.
Foster is under severe pressure with New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson in South Africa for the two tests. Robinson has not backed Foster as All Blacks coach beyond the two games in South Africa following an historic first home series loss to Ireland last month. New Zealand media reports that Foster will be expected to step down if his team loses again in Johannesburg.
The All Blacks, who are down to an all-time low of No. 5 on the world rankings, are facing a third straight loss to South Africa and their first defeats on consecutive weekends by the Springboks for more than a decade.
“Belief and confidence remain high in our group, which is working incredibly hard this week,” Foster said. “Playing at Ellis Park is always a special occasion for any All Black team, and this weekend will be no different.”
New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Caleb Clarke, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (captain), Shannon Frizell, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Tyrel Lomax, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ethan de Groot. Reserves: Codie Taylor, George Bower, Fletcher Newell, Tupou Vaa’i, Akira Ioane, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Quinn Tupaea.
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