Hansen confident new-look All Blacks will deliver goods
EDINBURGH: All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw has been shunted to blindside flank and flyhalf Dan Carter gets his first Test start in a year in a vastly rearranged New Zealand side to play Scotland tomorrow.
The surprise shake-up also has hooker James Parsons making his Test debut as only 12 players survive from the 23 involved in last weekend’s 24-21 win over England at Twickenham.
Parsons, along with utility back Colin Slade and lock Dominic Bird who are also in the run-on side to play Scotland, were not in the original touring party but have been called in as injuries hit the squad.
But coach Steve Hansen rejected any talk of an understrength side
“Though we have made changes to our team, there is an expectation that those who fill the jersey will deliver quality performances,” he said when announcing the team.
For the 135-Test veteran McCaw, widely acclaimed in his prime as the world’s best openside flanker, this will be the first time he has started a Test in the number six jersey although he has previously played at the back of the scrum.
He moves to the more defensive role to make way for his openside understudy Sam Cane with Victor Vito at number eight to give the All Blacks more mobility than the established loose trio of McCaw, Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read.
Of the 15 who started against England, only McCaw and Ben Smith will start again and even Smith has to change position, moving from wing to fullback in place of Israel Dagg.
Kaino and locks Patrick Fekitoa and Brodie Retallick were not considered due to injury while centre Conrad Smith has returned home for family reasons.
In Smith’s absence there is a new-look back combination with Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa paired in the centres while Slade, who kicked the winning goal as flyhalf against Australia last month, joins Charles Piutau on the wing.
Carter, the world’s leading Test points scorer, joins TJ Perenara in the halves to start his 102nd Test and wear the number 10 jersey for the first time this year.
After sitting out the June Test series against England, he missed the Rugby Championship because of injury before returning to play 30 minutes off the bench against the United States two weeks ago.
Bird gets his second Test at lock alongside Jeremy Thrush, and with a front-row combination of Joe Moody, Charlie Faumuina and Parsons the tight five have a combined total of just 42 caps.
Sonny Bill Williams has been placed on the bench along with player of the year nominee Julian Savea.
“We have a lot of respect for the Scots and, like all northern hemisphere teams, know that they will bring a lot of physicality to the park,” Hansen said. “However, we also expect them to want to move the ball, particularly from any turnovers or free kicks. That style certainly suited them last week and makes them, we believe, even more dangerous.”