Ireland tweak midfield for final All Blacks clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Ireland have made only one injury-enforced change for the third Test against the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday as they push for a historic first series win in New Zealand.
Bundee Aki replaces centre Garry Ringrose, who has been automatically stood down for 12 days after being concussed when he collided head-on with Angus Ta’avao in the second Test last weekend. The collision cost the All Black a three-week suspension.
Flank Peter O’Mahony also underwent a head-injury assessment during the second Test, won by Ireland 23-12 in Dunedin, but has been cleared to play, as has captain Johnny Sexton, who left the field late in the match with a knee injury.
The evergreen Sexton, who turned 37 this week, has yet to complete a match on tour, having been forced from the field after suffering a head knock before half-time in the first Test, which the All Blacks won 42-19.
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In the decider on Saturday, Aki will line up at inside centre with Robbie Henshaw moving out one place.
O’Mahony’s selection means Ireland have started with the same pack in all three Tests, with Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong in the front row, Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan at lock and a loose trio of O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris.
The only change on the bench sees Aki replaced by Keith Earls, who captained Ireland in their mid-week victory over the New Zealand Maori.
In the 117-year history between the All Blacks and Ireland, New Zealand have won 30 of the 35 Tests played, and the loss in Dunedin last weekend was the first time they have been beaten on home soil.
Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Mack Hansen, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 James Ryan, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Keith Earls.
Date: Saturday, July 16
Venue: Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19.05 (08.05 UK & Ireland time, 07.05 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Karl Dickson (England), Christophe Ridley (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)