All Black coach Steve Hansen pulled out the big guns for New Zealand’s encounter with Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
Hansen named a hugely experienced and in-form All Black side, with 745 caps in the starting XV and 140 on the eight-man bench.
Richie McCaw returns to captain the side in his 115th Test, with Keven Mealamu the only regular ruled out after straining his calf early in the second-half against Italy last week.
In the forwards, props Tony Woodcock and Owen Franks, along with hooker Andrew Hore make up the front row; the locks are Samuel Whitelock and Luke Romano; with Liam Messam, All Black captain Richie McCaw and Kieran Read the loose forward trio.
In the backs, Aaron Smith is at scrumhalf, Daniel Carter returns to his No.10 jersey, with the All Blacks most successful midfield pairing of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith taking their places. On the wings, Julian Savea gets his third successive start on tour and will combine with wing Cory Jane and fullback Israel Dagg in the outside backs.
On the replacement bench, hooker Dane Coles keeps his spot, in the absence of Mealamu, while Wyatt Crockett and Charlie Faumuina provide prop cover.
Brodie Retallick is replacement lock, with Victor Vito covering the loose forwards.
The backline replacement are Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden and Ben Smith.
Together with Mealamu, two other players weren’t considered for selection due to injury – Tamati Ellison (toe) and Beauden Barrett (ribs).
Loose forward Adam Thomson was also withdrawn from consideration for the Test as the IRB has announced it is appealing the one-match suspension imposed last week, with the All Blacks coaches not wanting the appeal to affect his or the team’s preparation.
Hansen declined to comment on Thomson’s predicament, preferring to focus on the rivalry between Messam and Vito, saying: “Liam and Victor are the incumbents and you know the competition is on and Liam’s really stepped up this year.”
Hansen also downplayed the seriousness of Mealamu’s injury saying his omission was precautionary and allowed Test-newcomer Dane Coles to get another run off the bench behind Andrew Hore.
“We just felt we’d be better off being cautious and giving it another week rather than pushing him and it’s also another opportunity to grow Coles who we’ve been very happy with on the tour,” he said.
Hansen said they always expected this game to will be a fiercely contested match.
“The Welsh team in the last 12 months have been Grand Slam winners and 2011 World Cup semifinalists and we have known since the World Cup that this would be the game that they would be targeting in this year-end series, so any recent performances or results won’t have any bearing on this match,” the All Black mentor said.
“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.”
The All Blacks have played Wales 28 times since 1905 with 25 wins to the All Blacks and three to the Welsh.
The All Blacks last played Wales on the 2010 end of year Tour winning that Test 37-25. The Welsh last beat the All Blacks in 1953, winning the Test in Cardiff 13-8.
Terrible weather has enveloped Cardiff this week, forcing the All Blacks to train in difficult conditions, but the roof of Millennium Stadium will be closed – although the underfoot conditions could still be tricky.
All Blacks: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (Captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 8. Charlie Faumuina, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Ben Smith.
Date: Saturday 24 November
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 19:15 SA Time (17:15 GMT, 06:15 Sunday 25 November NZ time)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garces, Greg Garner (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)