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Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

All Blacks bring in Fekitoa to cover for banned Sonny Bill

Lions told to cut down penalty count in decisive third Test

Sonny Bill Williams was sent off for this shoulder charge on Anthony Watson
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Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa has been drafted into the New Zealand squad for Saturday's decisive third Test against the British & Irish Lions as cover following a four-week ban handed to Sonny Bill Williams.

Williams was shown a red card in the first half of Saturday's second Test for a shoulder charge that connected with the head of Lions winger Anthony Watson.

The All Blacks had been 13-point favourites to win Saturday's encounter in Wellington and take an unassailable 2-0 series lead.

But with 14 men for nearly an hour they were outscored by two tries to nil and edged out 24-21.

New Zealand are still 2-7 favourites to take the series spoils and are asked to cover a handicap of 11 points back at their Eden Park fortress in Auckland, but the loss of Williams has added to their injury misfortune in the backs in this series.

Full-back Ben Smith and centre Ryan Crotty picked up injuries in the first Test, meaning Ngani Laumape made his debut off the bench in Wellington and could start at inside centre alongside Anton Lienert-Brown on Saturday.

Fekitoa had been a surprise omission from Steve Hansen's original squad - he has scored eight tries in 23 appearances for the All Blacks and featured in three of their four autumn internationals, starting against Italy and Ireland.

There was some good news for the Lions on the disciplinary front as a citing complaint against Sean O'Brien was dismissed. The Ireland flanker denied committing a swinging-arm offence against All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo, who failed a subsequent concussion test. O'Brien is now free to play in the final Test.

And forwards coach Graham Rowntree has spoken of the need for the Lions to cut down the number of penalties conceded if they are to have a chance in Saturday's decider.

The Lions gave away 13 penalties to eight in the second Test, ten of which resulted in kicks at goal, and they had to be thankful for Beauden Barrett's three missed efforts.

In the first Test in Auckland they were on the wrong end of the penalty count by 11 to seven, and Rowntree said: "The coaches will sit down and have a look at it and be very frank and show the lads. That will be a big focus this week."

The All Blacks had been 13-point favourites to win Saturday's encounter in Wellington and take an unassailable 2-0 series lead
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