All Blacks wheel out the big guns
Rugby:New Zealand have decided not to recall flanker Adam Thomson for Saturday’s test match against Wales at the Millennium Stadium. Thomson is available after serving a one-week one ban imposed after he was cited for stamping on Scotland forward Alasdair Strokosch’s head at Murrayfield 11 days ago.
But the International Rugby Board has now appealed what it describes as the leniency of that sanction, and the All Blacks coaches did not consider him for this weekend’s clash.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has still selected a side containing 745 caps that includes star players Dan Carter and Richie McCaw returning as the world champions seek a 25th successive victory over Wales, stretching back 59 years. Wales, in contrast, will go into the game on the back of successive home defeats against Argentina and Samoa.
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.
Liam Messam retains his place at blindside flanker with Adam Thomson not considered for selection. Winger Julian Savea, who might usually expect to be rotated, gets his third straight start on the European tour after scoring two tries in the 51-22 win over Scotland and again grabbing a brace against Italy.
Hansen, a former Wales coach, said: “We have always known this game will be a fiercely-contested match. The Welsh team in the last 12 months have been Grand Slam winners and 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-finalists.
“We have known since the World Cup that this would be the game that they would be targeting in this autumn series, so any recent performances or results won’t have any bearing on this match. We are all excited by what comes with this challenge, along with the fact that we will be playing in one of the world’s greatest rugby stadiums.”
While New Zealand are targeting a 20th successive Test match unbeaten, Wales are facing a sixth defeat on the bounce. If that happens, it would be their worst run of results since 2002-03 — when Hansen was in charge — when they lost 10 games in a row.
New Zealand: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.