Nonu and Smith reunited for All Blacks
November 18, 2010
Ma'a Nonu returns to the New Zealand No.12 shirt for this weekend's clash with Irelaand © Getty Images
The Sonny Bill Williams experiment has been placed on the back burner for the Irish leg of the All Blacks' Grand Slam tour.
Head coach Graham Henry has decided to reunite his usual midfield combination of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith for Saturday's clash at Lansdowne Road. Williams, Man-of-the-Match in last weekend's 49-3 thrashing of Scotland at Murrayfield, will make an impact from the bench for the first time in his short Test career.
Smith and Nonu sat out the England and Scotland victories respectively to accommodate Williams' impressive introduction to international rugby. His education process was an undoubted success at Twickenham and particularly at Murrayfield but now the 25-year-old has to adjust to life among the replacements as the Wellington and Hurricanes duo combine for the first time since the tour-opening Bledisloe Cup loss to the Wallabies in Hong Kong on October 30.
Nonu's promotion from the bench is one of five changes to a starting line-up that effortlessly stretched their unbeaten record against Scotland to 28 matches since the rivalry began in 1905. In other backline alterations Cory Jane returns from injuries sustained against Australia to replace Isaia Toeava on the right wing.
Scrum-half Andy Ellis starts his first Test since Italy in Milan on last year's northern hemisphere tour, replacing Jimmy Cowan, who will spend a second Test watching from the stands, after also being omitted from the 22-man squad that beat England 26-16.
In the pack, Jerome Kaino predictably returns to the blindside flank for Liam Messam, who covers the loose trio from the bench. Lock Tom Donnelly is in the match-day squad for the first time since Hong Kong, taking the place of Sam Whitelock. Brad Thorn has been ruled out with a hamstring problem, meaning that Anthony Boric starts in the engine room.
Hika Elliot, who debuted against Scotland, has been retained as the starting hooker in what could be his last involvement, given the suspended Keven Mealamu will be available for the finale against Wales in Cardiff next weekend. The match is also significant for captain Richie McCaw and fullback Mils Muliaina - they both eclipse Sean Fitzpatrick's record of 92 Test appearances.
An All Black victory will also serve as the 100th Test triumph of Graham Henry's coaching career. He has overseen 76 wins and 13 losses since succeeding John Mitchell in the All Blacks job in 2004. Henry fashioned a record of 22 wins, 13 losses and a draw during his four-year tenure with Wales (1998-2002) and a 1-2 series loss to Australia when head coach of the British and Irish Lions in 2001.
New Zealand: M Muliaina (Waikato); C Jane (Wellington), C Smith (Wellington), M Nonu (Wellington), H Gear (Wellington); D Carter (Canterbury), A Ellis (Canterbury); T Woodcock (North Harbour), H Elliot (Hawke's Bay), O Franks (Canterbury), A Boric (North Harbour), T Donnelly (Otago), J Kaino (Auckland), R McCaw (Canterbury, capt), K Read (Canterbury).
Replacements: A Hore (Taranaki), J Afoa (Auckland), S Whitelock (Canterbury), L Messam (Waikato), A Mathewson (Wellington), S Donald (Waikato), SB Williams (Canterbury)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
In the wake of another perfect November series, Monday Maul talks to NZRU CEO Steve Tew about the constant demand for perfection
The latest Week in Pictures takes in all the action from the weekend when rugby united behind Samoa
The Wallabies showed flair in Dublin, but they still have a way to go if they are to do more than make up the numbers at the World Cup, writes Greg Growden
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton