Fri, Nov 23, 2012 - Page 19 News List

New Zealand coach recalls big guns for Test against Wales

AFP, CARDIFF, United Kingdom

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has named his strongest starting lineup for tomorrow’s one-off Test against Wales, restoring skipper Richie McCaw and star flyhalf Dan Carter to the side.

After experimenting in the first two Tests of the tour to give all of his 32-man squad a run, Hansen opted to take no chances against an out-of-form Wales desperate to redeem themselves by downing the world champions.

“We have always known that this game will be a fiercely contested match... we have known since the World Cup that this would be the game they would be targeting in this series,” Hansen said.

“So any recent performances or results won’t have any bearing on this match,” he added.

McCaw, rested for last week’s 42-10 win over Italy, takes the captain’s armband back from Kieran Read, while Carter replaces understudy Aaron Cruden at No. 10 after warming the bench in Rome.

In all, there are nine changes from the side that defeated Italy, with Tony Woodcock the only survivor in a revamped tight five featuring Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Luke Romano and Sam Whitelock.

Liam Messam was retained as blindside flanker over Adam Thomson, whose one-match ban for stamping on Alasdair Strokosch in a 51-22 win over Scotland is being appealed by the International Rugby Board as “unduly lenient.”

Hansen said he did not want the appeal to disrupt the team’s preparation.

In the backs, Hansen stuck with the experienced center pairing of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, who played a key role in demolishing Italy.

Fullback Israel Dagg returns from injury at the expense of Beauden Barrett, while Cory Jane replaces Hosea Gear on the right wing.

Julian Savea, this year’s top international try scorer with 10 five-pointers in seven Tests, kept his place on the left wing, making him the only player to start in all three of New Zealand’s tour matches.

Aaron Smith held off a challenge from a resurgent Piri Weepu at scrumhalf, although Hansen conceded it was a close call after Weepu’s strong performance against Scotland.

The All Blacks are on a run of 19 Tests undefeated and have posted 24 straight wins over Wales since they last lost to the Red Dragons in 1953.

They enter the fixture as overwhelming favorites against a Wales team reeling after a run of five successive defeats, including a 26-19 loss to bogey team Samoa last week.

Hansen said the hosts would be determined to end their horror run and return to the form that delivered this year’s Six Nations championship and a semi-final berth at last year’s World Cup.

New Zealand wrap up their tour at Twickenham on Dec. 1 against England, who are the last team to defeat them on a northern hemisphere tour with a 31-28 win in 2002.

This story has been viewed 990 times.
TOP top