All Blacks vs Ireland: NZ midfield change for Dublin test

The All Blacks have stuck with their winning formula for Sunday's (NZ time) blockbuster showdown with Ireland in Dublin.

There's just one change to the starting side that edged England at Twickenham last weekend, with Ryan Crotty slotting into the number 12 jersey vacated by the injured Sonny Bill Williams.

Midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown replaces Crotty on the interchange bench.

The Crusaders star provided an undeniable spark to the All Blacks side when he entered the fray against England and after recent starts at centre, will return to the spot Hansen believes he's at his most productive.

"He's going back into probably the position that suits him best," said Hansen. "There's no doubt about that.

"He has attacking ability, pace and he's gives us a bit of a kicking game in there. He used to play first-five years ago.

"He's a great asset to our group, hence the reason we play him at centre at times. We want him on the park."

While the rest of the names remain essentially the same, there will be significant milestone moments at Aviva Stadium.

Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock's 50th test start together will push the duo past Ian Jones and Robin Brooke to claim the mantle as the most-capped locking combination in New Zealand history.

All Blacks vs Ireland: NZ midfield change for Dublin test

The most capped and - according to Hansen - the greatest pair of All Blacks locks to ever pack down together.

"I think they're probably the best one we've had. They complement each other really well… when they're both on form, they're pretty special players.

"Retallick is one from outer space and Sammy's not far behind him. It quite often gets missed how good Sam is because of how good Brodie is."

Meanwhile, Aaron Smith's 82nd test will see him surpass Justin Marshall as the most capped All Blacks halfback ever.

Hansen said the Highlanders dynamo has been an integral cog in the All Blacks machine since his debut in 2012 and has provided a point of difference that has elevated their backline play.

"He's bought speed and real genuine passion… and he has a love for the game.

"He's done a marvellous job speeding up the delivery of our ball and allowing us to play at a speed, which has been uncomfortable for other teams at times."

Ireland are expected to announce their side overnight Thursday. They will likely be missing some key players due to injury, most notably halfback Conor Murray and flanker Sean O'Brien.

Currently number one and two respectively in World Rugby's rankings, the two teams last met in 2016, when the All Blacks prevailed 21-9 just a few weeks after losing to the Irish in Chicago. That loss in Dublin remains the last time Ireland lost on home soil.


Join us at 7:30am Sunday for live updates of the All Blacks vs Ireland test at Dublin