All Blacks sweat over Carter's fitness
World champions New Zealand are reportedly sweating on the fitness of outhalf star Dan Carter for tomorrow’s Millennium Stadium clash against Wales.
Carter pulled up with what appeared to be a leg or groin injury during yesterday’s All Blacks training session at the University of Glamorgan, according to New Zealand media website www.stuff.co.nz.
The website says Carter appeared in immediate discomfort and changed training bibs with Aaron Cruden during a shortened work-out because of bad weather.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was questioned about Carter’s fitness at a press conference in Cardiff yesterday morning, which took place before training. Asked if Carter was carrying an injury, Hansen emphatically replied: “No”.
Cruden would be the obvious replacement if 93-times-capped Carter is sidelined, although there has been no official comment from the All Blacks camp.
Earlier Carter and captain Richie McCaw had been named in a full-strength side. Openside flanker McCaw was rested for last week’s 42-10 win over Italy, while Carter started the match on the bench, but both were restored to the starting line-up along with fullback Israel Dagg and prop Owen Franks.
Andrew Hore got the nod at hooker for the Millennium Stadium clash after his usual rival for the spot, Keven Mealamu, was ruled out of contention by a calf injury.
Wales assistant coach Robin McBryde believes Liam Williams can thrive in the rarefied atmosphere against New Zealand, after the Scarlets back replaced injured wing George North in the starting XV.
The loss of giant three-quarter North is the latest injury blow to hit Wales’ autumn series, with the likes of Adam Jones, Dan Lydiate, Alun-Wyn Jones, Josh Turnbull, Richard Hibbard, Dan Biggar and Ian Evans all unavailable.
The 20-year-old suffered a hip injury in training on Tuesday which has ruled him out of the clash with the world champions, although he could yet be fit to face Australia a week tomorrow. North has scored 11 tries in his 25 Tests for Wales, and was seen as a key attacking threat for the Six Nations champions as they look to get back on track after starting their autumn campaign with demoralising defeats to Argentina and Samoa.
But 21-year-old Williams, who won his one and only Wales cap to date against the Barbarians in June, has excelled for the Scarlets so far this season, albeit in his preferred position of fullback.
Joe Launchbury will make his first Test start for England after Stuart Lancaster made six changes for tomorrow’s autumn international against South Africa. The 21-year-old lock has replaced Wasps club-mate Tom Palmer from the secondrow as part of a forward reshuffle that has seen the head coach change half his pack from the 20-14 defeat to Australia.
The loosehead prop Alex Corbisiero, blindside flanker Tom Wood and number eight Ben Morgan will all make their first starts of the autumn campaign. For Wood it is a first start since the World Cup after finally overcoming a toe injury.
In the backs, Mike Brown starts on the left wing with England once again employing the tactic of two fullbacks in a bid to combat the Springboks’ aerial game. Lancaster recognises the danger of allowing South Africa’s direct runners an attacking platform in the England 22 and Brown offers reliability under the high ball and a strong left boot.
In the nip-and-tuck battle for the scrumhalf jersey, Ben Youngs has been preferred to Danny Care as he offers a better kicking game.
NEW ZEALAND (v Wales): I Dagg; C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, J Savea; D Carter, A Smith; T Woodcock, A Hore, O Franks, L Romano, S Whitelock, L Messam, R McCaw (capt), K Read. Replacements: D Coles, W Crockett, C Faumuina, B Retallick, V Vito, P Weepu, A Cruden, B Smith.
ENGLAND (v South Africa): A Goode; C Ashton, M Tuilagi, B Barritt, M Brown; T Flood, B Youngs; A Corbisiero, T Youngs, D Cole, J Launchbury, G Parling, T Wood, C Robshaw (capt), B Morgan. Replacements: D Paice, D Wilson, M Vunipola, M Botha, J Haskell, D Care, O Farrell, J Joseph.
AUSTRALIA (v Italy): B Barnes; N Cummins, A Ashley-Cooper, B Tapuai, D Mitchell; K Beale, B Sheehan; B Robinson, S Moore, B Alexander, S Timani, N Sharpe (capt), S Higginbotham, M Hooper, W Palu. Replacements: T Polota Nau, J Slipper, S Kepu, D Dennis, L Gill, N Phipps, M Harris, D Ioane.
ITALY (v Australia): A Masi; G Venditti, T Benvenuti, A Sgarbi, Mi Bergamasco; L Orquera, E Gori; A Lo Cicero, L Ghiraldini, M Castrogiovanni, Q Geldenhuys, F Minto, A Zanni, R Barbieri, S Parisse (capt). Replacements: D Giazzon, M Rizzo, L Cittadini, A Pavanello, S Favaro, M Vosawai, T Botes, L McLean.