Carter, Mealamu to face England
All Black veterans Dan Carter and Keven Mealamu return from injury to face England at Twickenham on Saturday.
All Black veterans Dan Carter and Keven Mealamu return from injury to face England at Twickenham on Saturday, as the world champions look to end their 2012 season undefeated.
Coach Steve Hansen named the pair in his starting line-up, although both will be subject to late fitness tests, along with prop Tony Woodcock.
Hansen made three changes to the starting XV that beat Wales 33-10 last weekend, naming his strongest team against an England side itching for a Southern Hemisphere scalp following closely fought losses to Australia and South Africa.
"We know that the English will lift themselves for their final match of the year, especially following their two recent narrow defeats, and we need to be prepared to match them in all facets," Hansen said.
Carter, a late withdrawal from the Wales Test after suffering an Achilles injury in training, resumes flyhalf duties, relegating Aaron Cruden to the bench.
Hooker Mealamu replaces Andrew Hore, who was suspended for five matches after punching lock Bradley Davies from behind in the win over Wales. Dane Coles will provide backup from the bench in case his calf injury flares again.
Lock Brodie Retallick was selected over Luke Romano to face the physical England pack.
"He [Retallick] has got a big motor, he goes all day long and we just thought this game would suit him," Hansen said.
The All Blacks have swept all before them while in Europe, defeating Scotland (51-22), Italy (42-10) and Wales (33-10).
The New Zealanders are undefeated in 20 games and a win on Saturday would see them go the entire season without a loss for the first time since 1997.
"There is huge motivation within the team to finish the season off on a high and real excitement ahead of this weekend, with a packed house at Twickenham always a great occasion," Hansen said: .
They have not been beaten in a Test on a Northern Hemisphere tour since 2002, when England won 31-28 at Twickenham.
Since then New Zealand have beaten England nine times, with five of the victories at Twickenham.
The All Blacks have played England 34 times since 1905 with 27 wins to the All Blacks, six to the English and one draw.
The last Test between the two sides was at Twickenham in November 2010, with the All Blacks winning 26-16 on that occasion.
The match will be skipper Richie McCaw's last before he takes a six-month sabbatical from rugby, after a gruelling schedule which included leading the All Blacks to victory in last year's World Cup.
The break is designed to extend the three-time IRB player of the year's career to the next tournament in 2015, with heir-apparent Kieran Read poised to take over the captain's duties in his absence.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Ben Smith.
Date: Saturday, December 1
Venue: Twickenham Stadium, London
Kick-off: 14.30 (14.30 GMT; 03.30, Sunday, December 2 NZ time)
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Giulio De Santis (Italy)