LONDON (Reuters) – An injury to Joe Moody has forced All Blacks coach Steve Hansen to tweak his strongest possible side for their November test against England in London on Saturday.
Moody suffered a torn eyelid during training earlier this week and has been ruled out for up to six weeks, with Karl Tu’inukuafe replacing him as loosehead prop at Twickenham.
“Joe Moody has found a way to get himself injured in unusual fashion this year,” Hansen said in Thursday’s squad announcement.
“Anyone else it would probably have missed his eye.
“(The) plastic surgeon has recommended six weeks and as our doctor described it, your eyelid is your window washer so if you’ve got half of it missing… it will impact your eyesight long term, so we need to make sure he is okay.”
Hansen has also decided to stick with the dual playmaker options he used against Australia in Yokohama last month with Damian McKenzie retained at fullback and Beauden Barrett at flyhalf.
Richie Mo’unga, who impressed at flyhalf against Japan last week in Tokyo, has also been named in the match-day 23.
Aaron Smith, who was on the bench for the Australia game, has regained the starting scrumhalf role from TJ Perenara, who drops into the replacements.
Centre Jack Goodhue has also returned to the starting side after he missed both tests in Japan due to glandular fever. He flew straight to England from New Zealand.
Goodhue will link with Sonny Bill Williams in the midfield with an eye on next year’s Rugby World Cup.
Hansen has already seen how well Williams and Ryan Crotty play together, but with Goodhue fast developing as the first-choice centre, the coach wants to see how the pair gel.
Former starting hooker Dane Coles has also returned to the 23, but will come off the bench after Codie Taylor took his game to new levels this year.
Coles started last week’s win over Japan after a serious knee injury that he sustained against France last November kept him on the sidelines for all of this year.
Team: 15-Damian McKenzie, 14-Ben Smith, 13-Jack Goodhue, 12-Sonny Bill Williams, 11-Rieko Ioane, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read (captain), 7-Ardie Savea, 6-Liam Squire, 5-Brodie Retallick, 4-Sam Whitelock, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16-Dane Coles, 17-Ofa Tuungafasi, 18-Nepo Laulala, 19-Scott Barrett, 20-Matt Todd, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Richie Mo’unga, 23-Ryan Crotty.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O’Brien)