The New Zealand All Blacks have announced their team to play the Wallabies in the opening Bledisloe Cup match of 2015.
The starting team has had six changes, positional and personnel, from New Zealand’s come-from-behind win over South Africa in Johannesburg two weeks ago.
Dan Carter returns as the starting flyhalf, with Sonny Bill Williams to start at inside centre in place of the injured Ma’a Nonu.
There’s plenty of experience in the front row, with Owen Franks and Tony Woodcock starting the game, and the dynamic Dane Coles playing hooker.
Luke Romano will partner Brodie Retallick in the locks, while Jerome Kaino makes his return on the blindside flank for the All Blacks.
Julian Savea will play on the left hand side of the field, with Nehe Milner-Skudder, the livewire Hurricanes winger, to partner him. It’s an exciting prospect for New Zealand, with Milner-Skudder showing jet shoes and tremendous tackle breaking ability in the Super Rugby season. It will be his All Blacks debut.
Ben Smith moves from the wing to fullback.
It looks a strong team, and one that the Wallabies will feel is in form and has plenty of experience.
Coach Steve Hansen was complimentary of their opponents, saying that this was an important game for the reigning world champions.
“The Bledisloe Cup is an important trophy for New Zealand rugby and for this team, and Australia is one of our oldest opponents. We are well aware that they have made improvements and that their coach Cheika wants them to be more physical and more consistent.
“Having said that, we are always looking to improve our game and understand that we will have to take a step up from our Ellis Park performance. This means we will need to bring physicality, intensity and accuracy to the occasion. I am picking this to be a brutal contest, and one we are looking forward to. It will be about us implementing our gameplan and skillsets for 80-plus minutes.”
All Blacks team to play the Wallabies
1. Tony Woodcock
2. Dane Coles
3. Owen Franks
4. Brodie Retallick
5. Luke Romano
6. Jerome Kaino
7. Richie McCaw (c)
8. Kieran Read
9. Aaron Smith
10. Daniel Carter
11. Julian Savea
12. Sonny Bill Williams
13. Conrad Smith
14. Nehe Milner-Skudder
15. Ben Smith
16. Codie Taylor
17. Ben Franks
18. Nepo Laulala
19. Samuel Whitelock
20. Sam Cane
21. TJ Perenara
22. Beauden Barrett
23. Malakai Fekitoa