France take aim at wounded All Blacks
June 11, 2009
Mils Muliana will lead the All Blacks against France © Getty Images
New Zealand host France at Carisbrook on Saturday, with more than usual riding on the first Test of the season for the All Blacks.
Graham Henry's side has been besieged by injury problems,with regular skipper Richie McCaw joined on the sidelines by fly-half Dan Carter, centres Richard Kahui and Conrad Smith, wing Sitiveni Sivivatu, blindside Jerome Kaino and No.8 Rodney So'oialo.
By contrast, France coach Marc Lievremont has selected a squad brimming with experience and will be hoping for a rare scalp on New Zealand soil. The All Blacks will be out to avenge their defeat in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2007, but their side will bear little resemblance to the one that trudged from the field that night in Cardiff.
Mils Muliaina captains the All Blacks in the absence of McCaw, being named alongside Rudi Wulf/Cory Jane. With Wulf named in the side he became the latest player to suffer an injury, a shoulder problem picked up in training allowing Chiefs wing Lelia Masaga to join up with the squad after a stint with the Junior All Blacks.
Ma'a Nonu partners Isaia Toeava in the centre, with Stephen Donald and Jimmy Cowan handed the responsibility at halfback.
In the pack, Adam Thomson will attempt to fill the shoes of McCaw on the openside, with Kieran Read and Liam Messam completing a back-row with only 13 caps experience at international level.
Isaac Ross makes his debut in place of the injured Ali Williams, partnering bard Thorn. In the front-row, Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore and Neemia Tialata provide some ballast and experience.
Lievremont has handed a debut to Leicester scrum-half Julien Dupuy, who will also take the kicking duties, and has kept faith in fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc. In the centre, Damien Traille and Mathieu Bastareaud provide a meaty challenge to the All Blacks and in a back-three of Maxime Medard, Cedric Heymans and Vincent Clerc there is plenty of firepower.
In the pack, blindside Thiery Dusautoir takes the captain's armband in the absence of Lionel Nallet, starting in a mobile back-row alongside Fulgence Ouedraogo and Louis Picamoles. In the front-row there is a recall for Toulouse hooker William Servat, who starts alongside Fabien Barcella and the hugely experienced Sylvain Marconnet.
New Zealand: Mils Muliaina (capt), Joe Rokocoko, Isaia Toeava, Ma'a Nonu, Rudi Wulf, Stephen Donald, Jimmy Cowan, Liam Messam, Adam Thomson, Kieran Read, Isaac Ross, Brad Thorn, Neemia Tialata, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: Keven Mealamu, John Afoa, Bryn Evans, Tanerau Latimer, Piri Weepu, Luke McAlister, Cory Jane.
France: Maxime Medard, Cedric Heymans, Mathieu Bastareaud, Damien Traille, Vincent Clerc, Francois Trinh-Duc, Julien Dupuy, Fabien Barcella, Williams Servat, Sylvain Marconnet, Pascal Pape, Romain Millo-Chluski, Thiery Dusautoir (capt), Fulgence Ouedraogo, Louis Picamoles
Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Thomas Domingo, Sebastien Chabal, Remy Martin, Dimitri Yachvili, Yannick Jauzion, Alexis Pa
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin