Carter out of first Test
Wed, 05 Jun 2013 20:08
The week has been disrupted with injury and illness
Star playmaker Dan Carter was the highest-profile omission in an injury-affected All Blacks team named for the first Test against France at Eden Park on Saturday.
Carter was ruled out after cracking a bone in his hand last week, while scrumhalf Piri Weepu (concussion) and veteran prop Tony Woodcock (hamstring) also missed out.
With Richie McCaw still taking a break from the game, coach Steve Hansen installed Kieran Read as captain for the first meeting between New Zealand and France since the All Blacks won the World Cup Final at the same venue in 2011.
Prop Ben Afeaki and lock Jeremy Thrush were the only new caps in a match-day squad featuring 377 Test caps and will both start from the bench.
Hansen conceded the All Blacks' build-up had been disrupted by injuries and said the New Zealanders could not afford to take France lightly - despite their last placing in this year's Six Nations.
"We all know how the French can play," he said.
"The only predictable thing about them is their unpredictability, so we will have to be ready for whatever they throw at us."
Hansen drafted in Aaron Cruden to replace Carter at flyhalf and named Aaron Smith in Weepu's No.9 role.
Wyatt Crockett steps in for Woodcock, while hooker Dane Coles gets his first run-on start in his fifth Test ahead of Keven Mealamu on the bench.
The New Zealand team still features a strong core of experienced All Blacks plus a clutch of younger players, with a combined total of 377 Test caps in the starting XV.
In the backs, the well–oiled provincial combination of Aaron Smith and Aaron Cruden start their fifth Test together while the All Blacks most capped midfield combination of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith will again link up.
The back three sees the experienced Israel Dagg at fullback joining with two Super Rugby stars Ben Smith and Julian Savea on the wings.
"Though the week has been disrupted with injury and illness, we have still been able to have a good week's preparation and there is no doubting that our two camps have been invaluable in assisting with this," Hansen said.
"To their credit, everyone has worked hard off the field and we couldn't be happier.
"The young guys have provided that unbridled enthusiasm that comes with being a new All Black, while the more experienced guys have provided the calm focus that's needed to allow a busy week to be dealt with in the right manner and to prepare well.
"The team is excited again about meeting the French at what looks set to be a sold–out Eden Park and given it's a Centenary celebration for Eden Park, I'm sure the fans will get into the occasion as well."
The All Blacks have played France 51 times since 1906, with 38 wins to the All Blacks, 12 wins to France and the one draw.
The French last played in a three-match Test Series in New Zealand in 1968.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg. 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain) 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ben Afeaki, 19 Jeremy Thrush, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Rene Ranger.
Date: Saturday, June 8
Venue: Eden Park, Aukland
Kick-off: 19.35 (09.35 French time; 07.35 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), tba (Australia)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)
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