Bigger Is Better For NZ
The All Blacks have named an imposing midfield combination for Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener against Australia in Sydney.
The front row features the most-capped All Blacks prop and hooker of all time in Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu, alongside Owen Franks, while Sam Whitelock links with Luke Romano in the second row.
In the loose forwards, Liam Messam is again at blindside flanker, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw is back at openside after playing number eight in his last All Blacks outing, with Kieran Read returning to the eight jersey.
In the backs, halfback Aaron Smith combines with returning flyhalf and All Blacks vice-captain Daniel Carter; in the midfield Ma’a Nonu comes in for the injured Conrad Smith at outside centre, with Sonny Bill Williams at inside centre. Cory Jane returns to the right wing, Hosea Gear is on the left and Israel Dagg is fullback.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said: “Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup contest brings two challenges. The first is our opponents who we clearly respect. But just as important is the second challenge, which is about us being better than we were before.
“The expectation this All Blacks team has is that it will strive to achieve these goals, both individually and collectively as a team.”
A squad of 24 will travel to Sydney for Saturday’s Test match, with Charlie Faumuina and Adam Thomson travelling with the matchday 22.
All Blacks squad members Wyatt Crockett, Tamati Ellison, Sam Cane and Julian Savea will remain in New Zealand.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Ma'a Nonu, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Brodie Retallick, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Ben Smith