Big guns back for All Blacks
Big guns back for All BlacksSHARE
The All Blacks welcome back three key players to the starting line-up for Saturday’s blockbuster Rugby Championship clash against the Springboks in Auckland.
Blindside flank Liam Messam, midfielder Ma'a Nonu and prop Owen Franks bolster the run-on side, with Franks set to win his 50th Test cap.
In other changes, Sam Cane starts at openside flank, replacing injured captain Richie McCaw, and Dane Coles starts at hooker, with 105-Test veteran Keven Mealamu to provide impact from the bench.
With Franks starting, Charlie Faumuina moves to the bench, where Steven Luatua provides lock and loose forward cover along with Matt Todd, who will offer openside flank cover.
No.8 Kieran Read will captain the team in his 55th Test.
Ben Franks, Francis Saili, Frank Halai and Luke Whitelock have been made available to play for their provinces if required.
"In selecting the team, there were some tough decisions to be made, none more so than between Liam and Steven. But in the end we have gone for Liam's extra experience and physicality and we also know that Steven will enter the contest at some stage,” said All Black head coach Steve Hansen.
"The Test match is shaping up to be a massive occasion with the two top-ranked sides in the world coming together for what will be a special night for both teams, as well as our fans. Both teams are in good form and will bring their respective strengths to the contest.
"We have a massive amount of respect for South Africa and have prepared accordingly. The physical challenge will be huge – as it always is – and the team that executes their game with the greatest effectiveness, clarity and intensity will be the one that comes out on top.
“The whole All Blacks group is looking forward to this challenge as it will give us a great indication of what level our game is at,” added Hansen.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau.
Date: Saturday, September 14
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 (09.35 SA time; 07.35 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)