Revenge for last year’s England defeat on minds of All Blacks
FLYHALF Daniel Carter will become the fifth New Zealand player to attain 100 Test caps after he was named in the side to play England at Twickenham today (kick-off 4.30pm).
The 31- year- old Carter, the world’s leading Test points scorer, follows captain Richie McCaw, former fullback Mils Muliaina, hooker Keven Mealamu and prop Tony Woodcock in reaching the milestone.
Carter’s march to the mark, however, has slowed over the last two seasons after he suffered a groin injury during the 2011 World Cup which the All Blacks won on home turf.
He has appeared in just five of New Zealand’s 12 Tests so far this season after breaking his hand, suffering a calf injury then being crunched by South Africa hooker Bismarck du Plessis at Eden Park in September that caused a shoulder injury.
Carter’s absence has allowed Aaron Cruden to develop into a world-class flyhalf and with Beauden Barrett also starting to capitalise on his few opportunities in the position, the veteran’s selection for today was by no means assured.
Rookie winger Charles Piutau, who scored one try and set up another for Kieran Read in last week’s 26-19 victory over France in Paris, was given the nod ahead of Cory Jane on the right wing with Julian Savea restored to the left wing after he recovered from illness.
Coach Steve Hansen made just one change to the squad that beat France, with Steven Luatua coming on to the bench for Sam Cane for the match at Twickenham, which has been hotly anticipated after Stuart Lancaster’s side ruined the world champions’ bid for an undefeated season in December.
“This is a Test match we are very much looking forward to,” said Hansen.
“We were completely outplayed by them last year but this is an opportunity for us to see if we have improved our game to the point where we can be competitive.
“The players are excited because this is what Test rugby is all about. We are expecting a really physical game with huge intensity, but also a game that will have high levels of energy, pace and skills.
“We know the England coaching staff have done a lot of homework so this may be a game where we add a few new things they haven’t seen before.”
The All Blacks have won all of their matches this season and are seeking to become the first side in the professional era to go unbeaten throughout the year.
They have won 24 of their 26 Tests since Hansen took over as Squads: ENGLAND Mike Brown; Chris Ashton, Joel Tomkins, Billy Twelvetrees, Ben Foden; Owen Farrell, Lee Dickson; Billy Vunipola, Chris Robshaw (capt), Tom Wood; Courtney Lawes, Joe Launchbury; Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley, Joe Marler Replacements: Tom Youngs, Matt Mullan, David Wilson, Geoff Parling, Ben Morgan, Ben Youngs, Toby Flood, Alex Goode NEW ZEALAND: Israel Dagg, Charles Piutau, Ben Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith,Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock Replacements: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Luke Romano, Steven Luatua, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Ryan Crotty head coach following the successful World Cup campaign.
England have recalled prop Dan Cole in the only change to their starting line-up. Cole, on the bench for last week’s 31- 12 win over Argentina, has changed places with David Wilson, who started against the Pumas.
Lancaster’s decision to retain the bulk of his starting side means New Zealand-born hooker Dylan Hartley is now set to win his 50th Test cap this weekend.
“It’s a great achievement for Dylan to reach 50 caps. We are a young side but one that is growing with every game and it’s important to have leaders like Dylan,” Lancaster said.
There are two more changes to the bench with Matt Mullan now among the replacements, following knee injuries suffered by Alex Corbisiero and Mako Vunipola.
Scrumhalf Ben Youngs is back on the bench after a hip injury, with Danny Care dropping out of the matchday 23.
Injures to wings Marland Yarde (hip) and Christian Wade (hamstring) see Chris Ashton given another chance to try to regain form.
“We have had some enforced changes with Alex and Mako unavailable and we have been unable to consider a number of players due to short and long-term injuries,” Lancaster said.
“But we are ready for the challenge of playing a top-quality side in New Zealand and are excited about playing at Twickenham.”
In all, there are seven survivors from the starting XV that enjoyed an England record 38-21 win over New Zealand at Twickehnham last year in Ashton, a try-scorer in that match, fullback Mike Brown, flyhalf Owen Farrell, captain Chris Robshaw, flank Tom Wood, lock Joe Launchbury and Cole.
That defeat represents the All Blacks’ only loss in 33 Tests since August 2011 – the year they won the World Cup.
England, meanwhile, are looking to make it 10 wins out of 11 this weekend and record their seventh straight victory at Twickenham. – Sapa-AFP