New Zealand and Australia team announcements for their much anticipated 2011 Rugby World Cup semi final at Eden Park in Auckland on Sunday. Prior to the tournament many were picking this match to be the World Cup final. However, an early loss to Ireland banished Australia to the same side of the draw as South Africa and New Zealand. Australia narrowly defeated defending champions South Africa in a controversial quarter final that has been blighted by referee criticism ever since.
While the Wallabies emerged battered from that encounter, it is New Zealand who have lost their two first choice first fives, including the irreplaceable Dan Carter. They also lost new centurion Mils Muliaina to a shoulder injury in the Argentina quarter final, pulling the curtain down on his illustrious All Black career. Previously maligned first fives Aaron Cruden and Stephen Donald now take the starting and bench spot respectively. Half back Piri Weepu will be looking to pick up the slack as he did in his man of the match performance last weekend, although he and Cruden are surely to be targetted heavily by the Wallabies.
The All Black pack is unchanged from last weekend, with captain Richie McCaw brushing away the growing concern over his foot injury to front up for another week. Israel Dagg and Richard Kahui return from injury to start in the back three. Dagg replaces the injured Muiliana at fullback and Kahui pushes Sonny Bill Williams to the bench.
Australia named their side at lunchtime today, with much of the focus being on whether star fullback Kurtley Beale can overcome a hamstring injury to take his spot. Beale has been bracketed at fullback, with the team giving him as close to kickoff as possible to prove his fitness. If he doesn’t play Adam Ashley-Cooper will move from centre to fullback and Anthony Faingaa will start at centre.
It is a predictable Australia foward pack, except that Nathan Sharpe has been denied the opportunity to get 100 tests caps, not even being named on the bench. Pat McCabe and Sekope Kepu have overcome injury concerns to take their spots in the starting fifteen.
Sun October 16 21.00 Semi Final 2: Australia (W QF3) v New Zealand (W QF4) Auckland Eden Park
New Zealand Team to Play Australia:
Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Richard Kahui, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Ali Williams, Victor Vito, Andy Ellis, Stephen Donald, Sonny Bill Williams
Australia Team to Play New Zealand:
Kurtley Beale/Adam Ashley-Cooper, James O’Connor, Ashley-Cooper/Anthony Faingaa, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Radike Samo, David Pocock, Rocky Elsom, James Horwill (captain), Dan Vickerman, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Sekope Kepu. Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper, Rob Simmons, Ben McCalman, Luke Burgess, Berrick Barnes, Faingaa/Rob Horne.