All Blacks opt for new midfield combination
November 9, 2012
Piri Weepu gets the nod at scrum-half for the All Blacks' tour opener against Scotland © Getty Images
Highlanders duo Ben Smith and Tamati Ellison will form a new-look midfield combination when New Zealand kick off their end of year tour against Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has made several changes to the side that drew with Australia in their most recent outing with the installation of a new centre partnership in the place of the experienced Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith the most eye-catching changed.
"We wanted to form a combination and we think there is a bit of combination there anyway from the Highlanders," said Hansen. "The combination of Conrad and Ma'a is going well and we need to keep working on that as well. Looking to the future, we think the Ma'a-Conrad combination is probably going to play later in the series and this [Smith and Ellison] is a combination that is going to spend a lot of time together I should think at the Highlanders and maybe future All Black teams."
Piri Weepu gets the nod at scrum-half with Aaron Smith making way while Julian Savea is named on the left wing in the place of Hosea Gear. Elsewhere, Adam Thomson will pack down at blindside and Victor Vito at No.8 with Liam Messam and Kieran Read rested. Wyatt Crockett, Andrew Hore and Owen Franks come into the front row with Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Charlie Faumuina making way. The final change to the starting line-up sees Luke Romano replace Brodie Retallick.
Another highlight is the inclusion of the two new caps, 25-year-old hooker Dane Coles and 22-year-old halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow in the replacements.
"The team is excited about kicking off our Tour in Scotland in front of a packed house at Murrayfield," added Hansen. "We have had a good build-up this week and the key for us has been to get our preparation spot on so we can put in a performance on Sunday which we are proud of. However, we know that the Scots will lift for this Test match and we expect them to be very combative."
The All Blacks have played Scotland 28 times since 1905, with 26 wins to the All Blacks and two draws - in 1964 and 1983. The teams last played in 2010 at Murrayfield on the All Blacks' end of year tour, with the All Blacks winning 49-3 on that occasion.
New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Tamati Ellison, Julian Savea; Daniel Carter, Piri Weepu; Victor Vito, Richie McCaw (captain), Adam Thomson, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock, Ben Franks, Ali Williams, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Ma'a Nonu.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September