Suggestions from New Zealand camp ruffle Australian feathers.
The All Blacks confirmed Ben Smith as their first-choice full-back in the team named on Thursday for the opening Rugby Championship Test against Australia, with World Cup winner Israel Dagg finding himself on the outer.
Dagg failed to even make the match-day squad for the clash in Sydney, as coach Steve Hansen stuck with the line-up that completed a 3-0 whitewash against England in June.
The run-on side features only two injury-related changes from the third England Test, with Wyatt Crockett in for the sidelined Tony Woodcock and Conrad Smith returning from a hand injury to demote Malakai Fekitoa to the bench.
Conrad Smith’s return follows Hansen’s regular policy of slotting his injured stars straight back into the team once they are fit, regardless of how their replacement has played.
However, New Zealand has fired an early warning shot across the bow of Wallabies coach Ewan McKenzie, with Steve Hansen claiming the only reason the Aussies picked Kurtley Beale, a shock move at fly-half given his lack of experience in the position, was to keep him out of the hands of a circling NRL side.
“I was dumbfounded by (the selection),” Hansen told reporters in Auckland.
“I thought ‘why would he do that?’ and I came to the conclusion that maybe Ewen doesn’t trust (Foley) to do be able to do what he wants against us.
“Or if you really think about it, the other guy (Beale) is under contract and league are chasing him so you might start to think maybe the ARU has told him he’s got to pick him.
“One guy has played there all year, the other guy has played seven Tests at most in his whole career at (No. 10), so why would you change that?
“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter why he has. Both of them are very good rugby players and Kurtley is certainly a guy who loves to do things differently.”