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Mo’unga at flyhalf as New Zealand rest regular starters for Italy

Richie Mo’unga will start at flyhalf as one of a number of changes to a largely second-string New Zealand side to tackle Italy in their autumn international clash in Rome on Saturday.

Mo'unga replaces Beauden Barrett as coach Ian Foster rests some of his usual starters, with wing Sevu Reece, scrumhalf Brad Weber, lock Tupou Vaa'i and prop Tyrel Lomax moving into the line-up from the side that thumped Wales 54-16 in Cardiff last weekend.

"We know it’s a really big game for us when it comes to improving our skillsets and decision-making as we’ve made that a bit of a focus this week," Foster said in a media release from New Zealand Rugby.

"The team that’s been selected has been given the job of ensuring we grow in those areas from our game against Wales. This week is about this particular group putting another marker down."

Tupou Vaa'i, 21, will form an inexperienced lock pairing with Josh Lord, 20, who made his debut against the United States last month.

"Tupou is a quality footballer and we have seen more signs of that in the last two weeks, while Josh on his first tour has learnt things quickly and has been really clear-headed at training. We’ve got a lot of faith in him," Foster said.

Hooker Dane Coles, and props George Bower and Lomax, make up the front row, while flankers Luke Jacobson and captain Sam Cane form a back row partnership with number eight Hoskins Sotutu.

Weber and Mo'unga are a new halfback pairing, with Quinn Tupaea and Braydon Ennor in the centre positions, and Reece and George Bridge on the wing. Damian McKenzie will play at fullback.

The All Blacks could break a number of records this weekend. Their 89 tries to date in 2021 are only three behind the world record of 92 tries scored by Argentina in 2003.

If they add three or more conversions they will break South Africa’s record of 62 in a calendar year set in 2007, while they need another 31 points to also beat the Springboks' record tally of 658 points that was also set 14 years ago.

Team: 15-Damian McKenzie, 14-Sevu Reece, 13-Braydon Ennor, 12-Quinn Tupaea, 11-George Bridge, 10-Richie Mo’unga, 9-Brad Weber, 8-Hoskins Sotutu, 7-Sam Cane (captain), 6-Luke Jacobson, 5-Josh Lord, 4-Tupou Vaa’i, 3-Tyrel Lomax, 2-Dane Coles, 1-George Bower.

Replacements: 16-Asafo Aumua, 17-Ethan de Groot, 18-Ofa Tuungafasi, 19-Sam Whitelock, 20-Shannon Frizell, 21-Finlay Christie, 22-David Havili, 23-Jordie Barrett

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

Source: Reuters

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