All Blacks drop Smith for France clash

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New Zealand scrum-half Aaron Smith has been dropped for Saturday's match with France in Paris.

TJ Perenara will come in for Smith, who has struggled to recapture his best form upon being reinstated to Steve Hansen's side this year after he voluntarily stood down from two Rugby Championship matches, having been being seen entering an airport toilet cubicle with a female in September.

Smith's demotion to the replacements is one of five changes made by Hansen, with Sam Cane and Ben Smith injured and Malakai Fekitoa suspended.

The All Blacks are on the up again after their 18-game winning streak was snapped by Ireland in Chicago, having smashed Italy before gaining a measure of revenge against the Irish in Dublin last week.

"I don't think you need to be a rocket scientist to know that Nuggy [Smith] has struggled since he came back," Hansen said.

"In that first game [against Ireland in Chicago] he obviously hadn't played for a while. 

"The second game against the Italians he was better and he was better again against Ireland but team comes first and TJ's taken that opportunity and played really well and we feel he deserves a start so he is going to get one.

"It is right for the team. We could have given Nuggy the opportunity and he has been through a tough time and clearly it has knocked his confidence a bit."

 

New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Waisake Naholo, Anton Leinert-Brown, Ryan Crofty, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Samuel Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Matt Todd, Kieran Read.

Replacements: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Aaron Cruden, Rieko Ioane.