Piri Weepu has wrestled the starting number nine jersey off Jimmy Cowan while Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina continue their tandem record breaking appearances in tests, lining up for their 98th test for the All Blacks.
The All Blacks side has a much stronger look than the one that lost to the Springboks last week. It’s a full-strength front row with Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock. In the loose, Adam Thomson gets a chance while Jerome Kaino is on baby-duty back in New Zealand. Thomson is joined by premier numbers seven and eight Richie McCaw and Kieran Read. At lock Brad Thorn returns, reforming his Crusaders’ combination with young Sam Whitlock. After starting every test this season, Ali Williams has moved to the bench.
Long standing inside backs Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith further establish their combination at 10, 12 and 13. However, it is in the outside backs where Graham Henry has pulled the most surprises. Despite all the plaudits Israel Dagg received following the Springbok test, he has failed to break into the 22. Instead Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane and Zac Guildford have been named with Isaia Toeava on the bench. It’s a bold statement, with this being the last test before the World Cup in two weeks. Sonny Bill Williams has not been able to secure his place on the bench this week, probably paying the price for not being able to cover any positions other than 12 as well as less than outstanding form in the international season so far.
The winner of the Brisbane test will take home the 2011 Tri-Nations trophy. A draw would likely result in the trophy going to the All Blacks as they are far ahead on points differential. The All Blacks have already secured the Bledisloe Cup for the year having won at Eden Park.
All Blacks Team to Play Wallabies:
Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Zac Guildford, Dan Carter, Piri Weepu, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Adam Thomson, Sam Whitelock, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Andrew Hore, John Afoa, Ali Williams, Victor Vito, Andy Ellis, Colin Slade, Isaia Toeava