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Steve Hanson

New ZealandAll Blacks centre Conrad Smith is out of tomorrow’s Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney after returning home for the birth of his first child.

Smith will join wife Lee-Ann in Wellington, with Canterbury midfielder Ryan Crotty called in as cover and likely to start from the bench. Malakai Fekitoa is expected to take Smith’s spot at centre outside Ma’a Nonu.

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Steve Hanson & Richie McCaw

All Black coach Steve Hanson with captain Richie McCaw

Steve Hansen is “dumbfounded” by Ewen McKenzie’s selection of Kurtley Beale at first-five ahead of Bernard Foley for Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney, suggesting the Wallabies coach might have been told to select him because of an apparent interest by rugby league.

The comments by the All Blacks coach came this afternoon ahead of the test at ANZ Stadium where Australian confidence will be high following the Waratahs’ recent Super Rugby triumph at the same venue.

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New ZealandSteve Hansen has sprung a Bledisloe selection surprise of his own, picking the in-form Ben Smith at fullback and dropping a fully fit Israel Dagg for the first time since he became the first-choice All Blacks No 15 three years ago.

The All Blacks coach has decided to stick with the back three that played the last two tests against England in June, which means there’s no room for Dagg in the squad of 23 to open the Rugby Championship against the Wallabies in Sydney on Saturday night.

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