England look to keep mercurial Carter and Co in check
STAR flyhalf Dan Carter will return from suspension to play England at Twickenham this weekend with a chance to become New Zealand’s highest points-scorer in Test rugby.
Carter needs only two points – the equivalent of a conversion – to pass Andrew Mehrtens’ record of 967.
Carter was banned for one match for a high tackle in his man-of-thematch performance in the 19-12 win over Wales at Cardiff 10 days ago.
This will be his 65th Test, five fewer than Mehrtens had in 2004.
Meanwhile, Biarritz centre Ayoola Erinle will make his first start for England, and lock Simon Shaw and flanker Joe Worsley returned to the lineup on Wednesday in the only home team changes.
After the All Blacks fielded a decidedly second-string side that beat Italy 20-6 last weekend, coach Graham Henry retained only winger Sitiveni Sivivatu from the backline in Milan, and only lock Tom Donnelly in the pack on Wednesday.
Flanker Richie McCaw, shortlisted this week for another world player of the year award, was back to captain the side, with veteran loosehead prop Tony Woodcock finally free of a back complaint he picked up in the tour-opening win over Australia at Tokyo.
Because of a hamstring strain to Corey Flynn, who scored a try against Italy, he and Aled de Malmanche were bracketed on the bench as replacement hooker. De Malmanche broke off his holiday on Wednesday to join the squad as cover.
“It doesn’t get much bigger than England at Twickenham,” Henry said. “It will be another fantastic challenge for the All Blacks. We are focused on preparing well this week and looking forward to playing a determined England side.”
Erinle, the sevens player who made his debut as a replacement in the 18-9 loss to Australia this month, was given a start out of position at inside centre by England manager Martin Johnson. He was originally drafted into the squad to replace the injured Mike Tindall.
The 29-year-old Nigerian-bor n Erinle failed to win a regular place at Leicester and considered quitting last year when he went on loan to second-tier club Nottingham.
But like flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson and hooker Steve Thompson, Erinle’s career was rejuvenated by a move to France.
“My prospects of playing for England were a dream that had been and gone,” Erinle said. “You try to hold on to it, but as time goes on it starts to fade away. When I went to Biarritz I just thought, ‘At least I will be playing rugby and enjoying myself ’.
“The Leicester coaches were apologetic about the fact I wasn’t really given a chance and I had to make a decision. The opportunity came up at Biarritz and I took it with both hands.”
Shane Geraghty, Louis Deacon and Tom Croft dropped to the bench, where they were joined by utility back Mathew Tait and fit-again prop David Wilson.
There was one positional change, with Ugo Monye switching to wing and Mark Cueto moving to fullback.
Johnson resisted pressure to make wholesale changes to the side that was jeered for its dull and lack- lustre play in last weekend’s 16-9 victory over Argentina.
“Let’s not forget we won against Argentina, a fact that appears to have been lost,” Johnson said. “We won against Argentina and dug ourselves out of a hole.
“I’d rather win a game and then get criticised for style afterwards. We were a bit conservative in the first half on Saturday. We fixed it, maybe later than we should have done, but we got the game won.”
The All Blacks have won 25 of their 32 matches against England.
Last year’s 32-6, was their biggest win at Twickenham. – Sapa-AP
BIG TEST: Ayoola Erinle wins his first start today.