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Coles returns for All Blacks after long injury layoff

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Coles returns for All Blacks after long injury layoff

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WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Dane Coles will make his return to the All Blacks side for the Rugby Championship clash with Australia in Dunedin on Saturday after battling injury for much of the year. The 30-year-old Coles has not played a test match since last November. He missed last week’s 54-34 victory in Sydney after he sustained another head knock in a warmup game. He had played a total of only 90 minutes for the Wellington Hurricanes in Super Rugby since mid-March after sustaining knee and calf injuries then suffering concussion symptoms. Codie Taylor, who filled the starting role in Coles’s absence and played all three tests against the British and Irish Lions and the Rugby Championship opener last week drops to the bench. Coles was one of only three personnel changes to the side that destroyed Australia last week, with lock Scott Barrett coming on to the bench for Luke Romano. Kane Hames has replaced Wyatt Crockett in the replacements. Crockett appeared to be concussed following a tackle last week in Sydney. Coach Steve Hansen kept faith with the backline that tore the Wallabies defensive line to shreds in the first 50 minutes last week in Sydney by running up a 54-6 lead. “Whilst we were very happy with the way we played for periods of the game in the first test, there were also moments where we weren’t so crash hot,” Hansen said in reference to the Wallabies scoring four unanswered tries in the final 30 minutes. “We’re well aware that we’ll have to be better in all areas of our game, and we’ve concentrated on those areas we want to improve. Once again, a good start will be important.” Team vice captain Ben Smith has been named on the wing for his final match before he takes a sabbatical after the match at Otago Regional Stadium until next year’s Super Rugby tournament. Team: 15-Damian McKenzie, 14-Ben Smith, 13-Ryan Crotty, 12-Sonny Bill Williams, 11-Rieko Ioane, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read (captain), 7-Sam Cane, 6-Liam Squire, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Dane Coles, 1-Joe Moody. Replacements: 16-Codie Taylor, 17-Kane Hames, 18-Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19-Scott Barrett, 20-Ardie Savea, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Lima Sopoaga, 23-Anton Lienert-Brown.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Clare Fallon)
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