Wed, Jul 30, 2008 - Page 20 News List

McCaw returns as All Blacks try to stem losing streak


New Zealand reacted to back-to-back Tri-Nations rugby defeats by making four personnel and three positional changes for Saturday’s re-match with Australia at Auckland, speeding the return from injury of captain Richie McCaw.

Further changes were pending as injuries have clouded the selection of a starting scrumhalf and hooker for the match at Eden Park, in which the All Blacks will attempt to stave off their third straight test defeat.

The Australians, chasing a first win in New Zealand since 2001 and a first at Eden Park since 1986, made two changes to the starting XV that won 34-19 last weekend in Sydney, with Stirling Mortlock returning as captain and Phil Waugh replacing injured Rocky Elsom on the blindside flank.

McCaw’s recall at flanker, days after coach Graham Henry gave him only a 50-50 chance of playing, seems indicative of desperation as New Zealand attempts to find a formula to avoid a second straight loss the Wallabies.

Australia won the first of three Tri-Nations and four Bledisloe Cup tests between the teams by four tries to three despite having only a fraction of possession.

McCaw has been sidelined throughout the Tri-Nations by a high ankle strain and now appears to have been rushed back to address deficiencies of leadership, and looseplay, which were features of the All Blacks’ successive losses to South Africa and Australia.

Injuries still hang over the team selection. Jimmy Cowan and Andy Ellis, the All Blacks’ scrumhalves in Sydney, are bracketed behind the scrum with Piri Weepu, who may play his 21st test — his first since last July — if either or both of the others is ruled unfit.

Ellis, who started last week, has badly bruised ribs while Cowan has a broken nose and strained knee ligaments.

Andrew Hore, who scored a try in Sydney before injuring his hip, is bracketed at hooker with Keven Mealamu.

Leon MacDonald has been named at fullback and Mils Muliaina, who was among the All Blacks’ best on the field, has been moved to an unfamiliar place on the right wing.

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