All Blacks opt for bulky backline
September 8, 2011
Sonny Bill Williams takes the inside centre berth © Getty Images
New Zealand coach Graham Henry has named a physical backline in a bid to counteract the threat of the typically bullish Tongans.
The headlines were once against taken by Sonny Bill Williams with the rugby league convert taking the inside centre berth for the All Blacks. Williams has been preferred to Conrad Smith in the Kiwi midfield and that sees Ma'a Nonu switch to No.13 to accommodate the Canterbury. Israel Dagg gets the nod at fullback over Mils Muliaina, while Richard Kahui and Isaia Toeava are preferred to Cory Jane and Zac Guildford on the right and left wings, respectively. Jimmy Cowan, meanwhile, is chosen ahead of Piri Weepu as Dan Carter's half-back partner.
Up front, Tony Woodcock has been passed fit to start despite concerns over a hamstring strain so he takes up his usual berth at loose-head prop. He will be joined in the front-row by Andrew Hore and Owen Franks. Samuel Whitelock makes way for Ali Williams in the second-row, while the injury-enforced absences of blindside flanker Adam Thomson and No.8 Kieran Read mean that there are starts for Jerome Kaino and Victor Vito in the back-row alongside skipper Richie McCaw, who will be making his 99th Test appearance for his country.
Tonga name Finau Maka as captain with Soane Tonga'uiha heading up a strong front-row. He is partnered by Worcester's Aleki Lutui and Cardiff Blues' Tau Filise. Paino Hehea and Joseph Tuineau will provide the grunt in the second-row while Viliami Ma'afu and Sione Kalamafoni will line up alongside Maka in the back-row. Taniela Moa takes the scrum-half berth alongside Kurt Morath. On the wings the prolific Vili Iongi will hope to make an impact with Siale Piutau on the other flank. Vunga Lilo lines up at fullback with Sukanaivalu Hufanga and Andre Ma'ilei in the centres.
New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Richard Kahui, Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Isaia Toeava; Dan Carter, Jimmy Cowan; Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Owen Franks; Brad Thorn, Ali Williams; Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (capt), Victor Vito
Replacements: Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Anthony Boric, Samuel Whitelock, Piri Weepu, Colin Slade, Cory Jane
Tonga: Vungakoto Lilo, Viliame Iongi, Sukanaivalu Hufanga, Andre Ma'ilei, Siale Piutau, Kurt Morath, Taniela Moa; Soane Tonga'uiha, Aleki Lutui, Taufa'ao Filise, Paino Hehea, Joseph Tuineau, Sione Kalamafoni, Finau Maka, Viliami Ma'afu
Replacements: Ephraim Taukafa, Alisona Taumalolo, Kisi Pulu, Sione Timani, Samiu Vahafolau, Samisoni Fisilau, Alipate Fatafehi
Referee: George Clancy (Ire)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (SA), Stuart Terheege (Eng)
Television Match Official: Giulio De Santis (Fra)
© 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