Cruden set to spearhead All Blacks
September 9, 2010
Rising star Aaron Cruden will fill the All Blacks' No.10 shirt this weekend © Getty Images
All Blacks coach Graham Henry has made five changes to his starting team for Saturday night's Tri-Nations finale against Australia in Sydney.
Injury means Aaron Cruden will start at fly-half in place of Daniel Carter, who is recovering from ankle surgery. Israel Dagg replaces Joe Rokocoko on the left wing. Piri Weepu has won the scrum-half spot ahead of Jimmy Cowan, Victor Vito will replace Jerome Kaino at blindside flanker and prop Owen Franks starts in place of brother Ben.
Cowan and Kaino have been named on the bench, as has uncapped Canterbury fly-half Colin Slade, while Rene Ranger comes in as outside back cover and lock Anthony Boric takes the place of Sam Whitelock. All Blacks captain Richie McCaw will lead the side for the 52nd Test match, which moves him past Sean Fitzpatrick as the most capped Test skipper in All Blacks history.
A win for the All Blacks would see them achieve a record 10 consecutive victories over Australia and they would also become the first team to win all six matches in a Tri-Nations series.
Robbie Deans has predictably kept the faith with the side that beat South Africa last week, only introducing Lachie Turner for injured winger Drew Mitchell. Sydney-born Turner should feel right at home for the ANZ Stadium clash, where the Wallabies will try to beat the All Blacks for the first time since 2008. Mitchell injured his hamstring in the act of scoring a try last week. Brumbies hooker Huia Edmonds comes onto the bench for the suspended Saia Faingaa in the only other change.
The Wallabies have a 21-6 record at ANZ, although the All Blacks have inflicted four of those losses. Significantly, Australia's most recent triumph over New Zealand came at the venue two years ago and the All Blacks needed a dramatic late penalty goal to win the corresponding fixture 19-18 last year.
Such records will matter little to Bledisloe debutants Edmonds, Quade Cooper and Ben McCalman. They'll be more interested in joining the Wallabies sides of 2000 and 2008 as the only groups to win three matches in a Tri-Nations campaign.
Wallabies coach Deans said his charges must forget their historic triumph for now and focus on the difficult task at hand. "We can't afford to continue to live in that moment. While the players are aware of the history that was associated with that performance, they are also aware of the significance of playing the All Blacks and the opportunity that they have in front of them this weekend. Hopefully we'll have a big crowd down at the stadium to get in behind them."
Australia: K Beale (NSW Waratahs); J O'Connor (Western Force), A Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies), M Giteau (Brumbies), L Turner (NSW Waratahs); Q Cooper (Queensland Reds), W Genia (Queensland Reds); B Robinson (NSW Waratahs), S Moore (Brumbies), S Ma'afu (Brumbies), M Chisholm (Brumbies), N Sharpe (Western Force), R Elsom (Brumbies) D Pocock (Western Force), B McCalman (Western Force).
Replacements: H Edmonds (Brumbies), J Slipper (Queensland Reds), D Mumm (NSW Waratahs), R Brown (Western Force), L Burgess (NSW Waratahs), B Barnes (NSW Waratahs), A Faingaa (Queensland Reds)
New Zealand: M Muliaina (Chiefs); C Jane (Hurricanes), C Smith (Hurricanes), M Nonu (Hurricanes), I Dagg (Highlanders), A Cruden (Hurricanes), P Weepu (Hurricanes), T Woodcock (Blues), K Mealamu (Blues), O Franks (Crusaders), B Thorn (Crusaders), T Donnelly (Highlanders), V Vito (Hurricanes), R McCaw (Crusaders), K Read (Crusaders)
Replacements: C Flynn (Crusaders), J Afoa (Blues), A Boric (Blues), J Kaino (Blues), J Cowan (Highlanders), C Slade (Crusaders), R Ranger (Blues)
Referee: Mark Lawrence (SA)
Assistant referees: J. Kaplan (SA), C. Du Preez (SA)