All Blacks tweak team with one change for World Cup final

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New Zealand tweaked their team for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final against South Africa with a single change but resisted any temptation to power up their bench to offset the forward-heavy list of replacements the Springboks named earlier on Thursday.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster changed his lock combination again with Brodie Retallick restored to the lineup and Sam Whitelock returning to the list of replacements in the only change to the starting team.

New Zealand believe the 35-year-old Whitelock, playing his third World Cup final, is most effective coming off the bench, and could bring an injection of energy at a time when South Africa are refreshing their forwards.

Retallick and Scott Barrett started against Ireland in the quarter-final and Barrett and Whitelock were the lock combination in last week’s semi-final success against Argentina.

Among the substitutes, tighthead prop Nepo Lualua comes in for Fletcher Newell, adding more size, but the All Blacks keep a 5-3 split between forwards and backs on the replacement bench.

“Nepo is very experienced and brings more technique rather than power,” said Foster.

South Africa has gambled with a controversial 7-1 split, putting their faith in forward power to provide the key to success but leaving themselves exposed if any of their backs get injured or run out of steam.

“We are going to have to be at our best on Saturday, both defensively and attacking,” said captain Sam Cane.

“If we do that we’ll give ourselves a good shot.”

Six of New Zealand’s matchday squad for the game are previous World Cup winners and the 23-man team has a collective total of 1 387 caps, making it the most experienced All Blacks squad for any of their record five World Cup finals appearances.

“We’ve woken up this week to find ourselves in a World Cup final and we’ve worked to deal with all the distractions. Two great teams, different styles. They (South Africa) are great at their style, we want to be great at ours,” added Foster.

New Zealand team:

15-Beauden Barrett, 14-Will Jordan, 13-Rieko Ioane, 12-Jordie Barrett, 11-Mark Telea, 10-Richie Mo’unga, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Ardie Savea, 7-Sam Cane (capt.), 6-Shannon Frizell, 5-Scott Barrett, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Tyrel Lomax, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-Ethan de Groot

Replacements: 16-Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17-Tamaiti Williams, 18-Nepo Laulala, 19- Sam Whitelock, 20-Dalton Papalii, 21-Finlay Christie, 22-Damian McKenzie, 23-Anton Lienert-Brown