CARDIFF, Wales — Captain Kieran Read hurt his back and won’t lead New Zealand against Wales on Saturday in their rugby tour closer.
Read reinjured his hip flexor in leading the All Blacks past Scotland 22-17 last weekend at Murrayfield in his 109th test. He didn’t train on Tuesday to give him a chance to recover, then strained his back in training on Thursday and could hardly move. He will miss his second test of the year.
“It’s probably associated with (the hip flexor),” coach Steve Hansen said.
Luke Whitelock, who captained New Zealand against a French XV last week, will play No. 8, and his brother Sam, the most capped All Blacks lock with 95, will skipper the side for the first time.
The Whitelocks join Wellington brothers Harry and Marcus Nicholls from the 1920s as the only set of brothers to captain the All Blacks.
“Kieran is like everybody else, if you’re not available it’s an opportunity for someone else. It’s a big opportunity for Luke and a big opportunity for the team to do the job without him,” Hansen said. “Whilst it’s disappointing to lose your leader, you can’t do anything about it, so there’s no point in me sitting here getting all emotional about it.”
The only other two changes were also in the pack, where Liam Squire replaced Vaea Fifita on the blindside flank, and Patrick Tuipulotu was at lock for Luke Romano, who has plantar fascia. The backline was unchanged.
Wales recalled its frontline forwards and kept faith with playmaker Owen Williams at inside center.
Welsh hopes of a first victory over the All Blacks since 1953 have been hit by injuries to fullback Liam Williams and center Jonathan Davies during games against Georgia and Australia this month. Star winger George North was already out injured.
Wales coach Warren Gatland selected the pack that fronted up well against Australia in a 29-21 loss on Nov. 8 and was rested completely for the 13-6 win over Georgia last weekend.
In the backs, Owen Williams partners Scott Williams, who wins his 50th cap, in midfield as Gatland looks for a more expansive game out wide. Hard-running veteran center Jamie Roberts is among the reserves.
Winger Hallam Amos was the replacement for Liam Williams and Rhys Webb was preferred to Gareth Davies at scrumhalf. Amos, Scott Williams and Webb were the only survivors from the team that started against Georgia.
Wales has lost 29 straight tests against the All Blacks.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Hallam Amos, Scott Williams, Owen Williams, Steff Evans, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Taulupe Faletau, Josh Navidi, Aaron Shingler, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Jake Ball, Tomas Francis, Ken Owens, Rob Evans. Reserves: Kristian Dacey, Wyn Jones, Leon Brown, Cory Hill, Justin Tipuric, Gareth Davies, Rhys Priestland, Jamie Roberts.
New Zealand: Damian McKenzie, Waisake Naholo, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Luke Whitelock, Sam Cane, Liam Squire, Sam Whitelock (captain), Patrick Tuipulotu, Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Kane Hames. Reserves: Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Lima Sopoaga, Anton Lienert-Brown.