Flyhalf Dan Carter has recovered from a calf injury and will start for New Zealand in their final Test of the year against England at Twickenham tomorrow.
Carter, the standout flyhalf in world rugby, missed the 33-10 victory over Six Nations champions Wales in Cardiff, but was named in the starting lineup to face England by coach Steven Hansen yesterday. Aaron Cruden drops to the bench.
The World Cup-winning All Blacks, undefeated in 20 Tests, swatted aside the Welsh with ease last Saturday and with Carter returning to the side a similar result is expected at Twickenham against a stuttering England.
England have not beaten the All Blacks since 2003, but New Zealand coach Hansen is wary of the opposition, who have suffered narrow losses to South Africa and Australia in consecutive weeks.
“There is huge motivation within the team to finish the season off on a high and real excitement ahead of this weekend, with a packed house at Twickenham always a great occasion,” Hansen said in a statement.
“We know that the English will lift themselves for their final match of the year, especially following their two recent narrow defeats [to South Africa and Australia] and we need to be prepared to match them in all facets,” he said.
England’s traditional strength has been the power of their pack and Hansen made two changes to his forwards yesterday to combat the threat.
Brodie Retallick was preferred in the second row over Luke Romano, who scored a try in the win over Wales, while Keven Mealamu was named at hooker in place of Andrew Hore, who was banned for five weeks for striking Welsh lock Bradley Davies last Saturday.
“He has a couple of games off the bench and he has got a big motor and goes all day long and we just think that this game will suit him,” Hansen told New Zealand media of the switch of locks.
“They [England] are big men and they are probably one of the biggest packs that we will come up against. They will bring a physical, combative game, there is no question about where they are going to come. They will have one-off runners and two runners round the corner, so they are going to come straight at you,” Hansen said.
Mealamu, Carter and prop Tony Woodcock had all been injury concerns for tomorrow, but Hansen said they were ready.
Captain Richie McCaw is to start his 116th Test and lead the vastly experienced side for the 79th time.