All Blacks bank on experience in Paris
The most experienced team in All Blacks' history will face France this weekend, after New Zealand coach Steve Hansen recalled his big guns.
The most experienced team in All Blacks' history will face France this weekend, after New Zealand coach Steve Hansen recalled his big guns for the Paris clash.
Hansen's run-on team announced on Thursday has 853 caps, with a further 112 available on the bench for a combined record of 965, in a sign the world champions are not taking the mercurial French lightly.
"France are one of our great foes and there is a rich history of matches between our two countries, so we are certainly looking forward to this weekend," Hansen said.
With Hansen's team bidding to become the first All Blacks' side ever to finish the year with a 100 percent win record, the coach ditched the experimental line-up that defeated Japan 54-6 in Tokyo last week.
Eight first-choice All Blacks - including stalwarts such as Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Ma'a Nonu - sat out the Japan game and travelled straight to France for the European leg of the tour, which also includes Tests against England and Ireland.
Hansen said he was sticking with the core group of players who had delivered 11 wins from 11 Tests so far this year.
"In the end it was a pretty easy team to pick," he said.
"It's pretty consistent with what we've been running with most of the year."
The main talking point was the absence of wing Julian Savea due to a flu virus, with Cory Jane returning from a hamstring injury to take his place alongside fellow wing Charles Piutau.
Hansen said Piutau, the rookie among the starting No.15 with just eight caps, had been in "electric" form and deserved his spot.
Skipper Richie McCaw returns to his favoured No.7 position after being played at No.8 in Tokyo, while star flyhalf Dan Carter will move to 99 Tests at the Stade de France.
Regular No.8 Kieran Read and blindside flank Liam Messam complete a fierce back row, as the All Blacks seek to extend their winning streak to 12 this season and notch a fourth win for the year over Les Bleus after whitewashing them 3-0 at home during the June internationals.
"The full squad has come together well after the Japan Test and are united with a common purpose - to play well on this ... European tour and put in performances that we can all be proud of," Hansen said.
"But we know this weekend's Test won't be easy - the French will come at us with real physicality, passion and something new.
"As well, the Dave Gallaher Trophy is again on the line, it means a lot to the team, and is certainly something extra to play for this weekend."
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Ben Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Ryan Crotty.
Date: Saturday, November 9
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 21.00 (20.00 GMT; 09.00, Sunday, November 10 NZ time)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)