The All Blacks selectors have named a strong team to play South Africa in The Rugby Championship Freedom Cup Test at Eden Park, Auckland, this Saturday, 14 September 2013, with the starting 15 featuring the return of several regular starters: prop Owen Franks in his 50th Test, Liam Messam at blindside flanker and midfielder Ma’a Nonu.
In other changes, Sam Cane starts at openside flanker replacing injured All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and Dane Coles starts at hooker, with 105-Test veteran Keven Mealamu to provide impact from the bench. With Franks starting, prop Charlie Faumuina moves to the bench, Steven Luatua is also in the reserves covering lock and loose forward along with injury replacement flanker Matt Todd who will cover openside flanker.
Number eight Kieran Read will captain the team in his 55th Test.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “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.
“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.”
Meanwhile, the following players have been made available to play for their ITM Cup provinces if required for Week 5 of the competition: Ben Franks, Francis Saili, Frank Halai and Luke Whitelock.
All Blacks (caps in brackets): 15 Israel Dagg (31), 14 Ben Smith (18), 13 Conrad Smith (72), 12 Ma’a Nonu (81), 11 Julian Savea (14), 10 Dan Carter (96), 9 Aaron Smith (18), 8 Kieran Read (Captain – 54), 7 Sam Cane (9), 6 Liam Messam (23), 5 Sam Whitelock (44), 4 Brodie Retallick (17), 3 Owen Franks (49), 2 Dane Coles (8), 1 Tony Woodcock (101)
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu (105), 17 Wyatt Crockett (16), 18 Charlie Faumuina (10), 19 Steven Luatua (4), 20 Matt Todd (1), 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow (7), 22 Beauden Barrett (10), 23 Charles Piutau (3).