Flyhalf Daniel Carter will become the fifth New Zealand player to attain 100 Test caps after he was named in the side to play England at Twickenham today.
The 31-year-old Carter, the world’s leading Test points scorer, follows captain Richie McCaw, former fullback Mils Muliaina, hooker Keven Mealamu and prop Tony Woodcock in reaching the milestone.
Carter’s march to the mark has slowed over the past two seasons after he suffered a groin injury during the 2011 World Cup, which the All Blacks won on home turf.
He has appeared in just five of New Zealand’s 12 tests so far this season after breaking his hand, suffering a calf injury then a shoulder injury after being crunched by South Africa hooker Bismarck du Plessis at Eden Park in September.
Carter’s absence has allowed Aaron Cruden to develop into a world-class flyhalf and with Beauden Barrett also starting to capitalize on his few opportunities in the position, the veteran’s selection was by no means assured.
Winger Charles Piutau, who scored one try and set up another for Kieran Read in last week’s 26-19 victory over France in Paris, was given the nod ahead of Cory Jane on the right wing with Julian Savea restored to the left wing after he recovered from illness.
Coach Steve Hansen made just one change to the squad that beat France with Steven Luatua coming onto the bench for Sam Cane for the match at Twickenham, which has been hotly anticipated after Stuart Lancaster’s side ruined the world champions’ bid for an undefeated season last year.
“This is a Test match we are very much looking forward to,” Hansen said in a statement on Thursday. “We were completely outplayed by them last year, but this is an opportunity for us to see if we have improved our game to the point where we can be competitive.”
“The players are excited because this is what test rugby is all about. We are expecting a really physical game with huge intensity, but also a game that will have high levels of energy, pace and skills,” he said.
“We know the England coaching staff have done a lot of homework so this may be a game where we add a few new things they haven’t seen before,” the New Zealand coach added.
The All Blacks have won all of their matches this season and are seeking to become the first side in the professional era to go unbeaten throughout a year.
They have won 24 of their 26 tests since Hansen took over as head coach following the successful World Cup campaign.