Christchurch match winner Dan Carter out of final test with hamstring injury
The New Zealand All Blacks have rung the changes for the third and final test in the Steinlager series, while Ireland have largely rewarded the team that came oh-so-close in the Christchurch test match.
Two of Ireland’s three changes are injury enforced. Keith Earls returns from injury to replace bench bound wing Andrew Trimble. Paddy Wallace was called into the squad to replace the injured Gordon D’Arcy, and starts at 12. Number 8 Jamie Heaslip has broken his finger and is replaced by Peter O’Mahony. Loose forward Chris Henry takes a spot on the bench.
Certainly some of the All Black changes are injury-enforced, such as Dan Carter’s hamstring injury and Kieran Read’s head knock. Initially the third test was supposed to be an opportunity for a bit more experimentation, particularly after the first test implied the All Blacks could take some risks. However, the white-knuckle Christchurch test surely put paid to any complacency New Zealand would have had. Perhaps, NZ coach Steve Hansen would have replaced Carter with the in-form Cruden anyway, but now the New Zealand public will be far more anxious following Carter’s contribution in the last test – a last minute drop goal to win the match.
It is hard to say if the All Black’s wholesale wing changes are squad rotation or punishment for a lack of form in the first test, particularly from Julian Savea. Savea overcame early handling errors to burst onto the international stage with three tries in the first test. In the second test Savea retained the handling errors, indeed limiting his involvement to just those indiscretions. Guildford was for more involved, but hasn’t set the world on fire in either test. Both drop out of the 22 and are replaced by Highlanders Ben Smith and Hosea Gear.
Potential debutant first five Beauden Barrett takes a place on the bench, while the versatile Tamati Ellison makes his All Black return covering the backs from the reserves bench.
Prior to this week, Hansen would not have ever imagined this new loose forward trio taking the field. Liam Messam comes in from the cold, straight into the starting lineup at 6. Young Sam Cane gets an opportunity to start in Richie McCaw’s coveted 7 jersey, following an impressive debut of the bench last week. McCaw will be hoping he has put his handling issues behind him as that will be imperative to him being effective as a makeshift number 8 this week.
Adam Thomson drops from the blindside last week to the bench. Thomson has been challenged to bring more physicality to his game to obtain a starting spot. However, either the long season, the battering he took in the first two tests or even just his physical shortcomings for that sort of game has meant he has not imposed himself on any of the games so far.
Luke Romano makes his debut at 4, hopefully bringing more grunt to the scrum, while Brodie Retallick drops to the bench. Ali Williams has been injured out of the series. The front row from last week is retained.
This game could go a number of ways, particularity after how unpredictable the second test was. The All Blacks were supposed to improve and Ireland to disintegrate in the second test. The opposite happened. Will that game give the All Blacks the urgency they need for the third test? Can Ireland bring the same aggression and passion two weeks in a row? How will the new All Black loose forward trio perform?
An ‘unconfident’ All Blacks by eight.
All Blacks Team to Play Ireland:
Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Hosea Gear, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Richie McCaw (capt), Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Brodie Retallick, Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Beauden Barrett, Tamati Ellison.
Ireland Team to Play All Blacks:
Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll (captain), Paddy Wallace, Keith Earls, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Kevin McLaughlin, Donnacha Ryan, Dan Tuohy, Mike Ross, Rory Best, Cian Healy.
Reserves: Sean Cronin, Declan Fitzpatrick, Donncha O’Callaghan, Chris Henry, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O’Gara, Andrew Trimble.