All Black flyhalf Dan Carter has been ruled out of Saturday’s clash with Wales at the Millennium Stadium due to a leg injury.
Carter felt a twinge in his right leg during Thursday’s training session and has been withdrawn from the weekend’s match.
“Gutted not to be playing with these boys in this stadium tomorrow,” Carter tweeted along with a photo of the Millennium Stadium.
Aaron Cruden is promoted to the starting line-up where he links up with Aaron Smith, who has been cleared to start at scrumhalf after struggling to shake a niggling knee injury he sustained in the win over Italy last weekend.
Captain Richie McCaw said the focus will now shift to providing a solid platform for Cruden.
“It’s something you can’t control. Aaron’s played a few Tests, some pretty big games,” said McCaw.
“It’s disappointing for Dan, but the next guy will come in and we’ll try to give him some good ball to operate with.
“Dan’s a pretty good footballer, 90-something Tests, he’s hard to replace. But we’ve got to get on, and have belief in the next guys.”
Beauden Barrett has recovered from a rib injury and fills the void on the bench, which also includes Piri Weepu, who is set to become Test rugby’s most-capped replacement this weekend.
Weepu, should he take to the field, will break former Springbok prop Ollie le Roux’s near-decade long record of 43 Tests as a substitute.
McCaw signalled an ominous warning to Wales, saying they want to cap their unbeaten season with a dominant display against the Six Nations champions.
“The boys are in pretty good shape and we all want to play now. We’re expecting a Welsh team to come out and front up. We certainly respect the way they go about things.
“We want to put together a much better performance over the 80 minutes. The big motivation is backing up good performances.
“This group of players want to perform and take a step up from the last couple of weeks.
“We’ve done a lot of good things this year but we haven’t reached our full potential yet.
“Tomorrow’s a big challenge. Wales have played a lot of Tests. Give them a bit of space and time and they’re good players.
“We’re going to play the game we need to.”
All Blacks – revised: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 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 Beauden Barrett, 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)