England v New Zealand: Scott Barrett into back row as Sam Cane dropped

England v New Zealand: Scott Barrett into back row as Sam Cane dropped

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has sprung a surprise by dropping flanker Sam Cane to the bench and picking Scott Barrett for Saturday’s crunch World Cup semi-final against England in Yokohama.

It will be the first time Barrett, who is normally a lock, starts a Test in the back row.

Older brother Beauden is again at full-back with Richie Mo’unga continuing at fly-half.

England have recalled fly-half George Ford for the match.

After starting with Owen Farrell at fly-half and Manu Tuilagi alongside Henry Slade in the centres for the 40-16 quarter-final win over Australia, coach Eddie Jones has reverted to a 10-12-13 combination of Ford, Farrell and Tuilagi in the only change to the starting XV that beat the Wallabies.

Meanwhile, Hansen has shrugged off Jones’ suggestion that pressure will be “chasing the All Blacks down the street” by referencing England’s failure to get out of the pool stages when they hosted the World Cup four years ago.

Steve Hansen
Hansen said that he and England counterpart Eddie Jones have exchanged text messages during the build-up to Saturday’s match

“The reality is both teams have got pressure on them, different types of pressure,” said Hansen.

“We are going to attempt to win this game, and if we do, we will be attempting to do something that has never been done before. That brings its own pressure, as Eddie has highlighted.

“But then you have got a team that has come out of a previous tournament having not been as successful as they wanted to be. They have built themselves up for four years to do this job, and that brings its own pressure, a different type of pressure, but still pressure.”

Scott Barrett, 25, has made eight replacement appearances as a flanker, including in the All Blacks’ quarter-final thrashing of Ireland, but has never started a Test in the back row.

The All Blacks have won 33 of their 41 matches against England in a rivalry dating back to 1905. England came within a point of winning the most recent encounter, with Sam Underhill’s late try ruled out in a 16-15 defeat at Twickenham in November.

England’s most recent victory over the three-time world champions was a 38-21 success in 2012, but they have lost all three of the previous World Cup meetings.


New Zealand: Beauden Barrett; Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge; Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, Kieran Read (capt).

Replacements: Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Angus Ta’avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett.


While Eddie Jones was in his element earlier this week, attempting to control the narrative and lumping the pressure onto New Zealand, All Blacks boss Steve Hansen had the calm presence today of a man well-accustomed to the big occasion.

Hansen has made the one bold call, lock Scott Barrett starting on the flank for the first time ever, a clear signal New Zealand feel England’s line-out can be picked off, as was the case at Twickenham a year ago. It’s also a rare example of an All Blacks coach making a selection with the opposition in mind, a sign of the respect the New Zealand management have for Jones’ side.

And while Hansen gave the impression of a man who wasn’t going to rise to Jones’ bait, he was more than happy to chuck a few grenades in his opponents’ direction, highlighting the pressure England will be under given Jones’ oft-stated desire to win this World Cup, and questioning whether England’s players still wear the scars of their doomed campaign of 2015.