New Zealand have made 12 personnel changes and one positional switch for this weekend’s Test match against Wales.
New Zealand have made 12 personnel changes and one positional switch for this weekend’s Test match against Wales in Cardiff.
Dan Carter, fly-half against Scotland, drops out of the matchday squad completely.
This weekend’s Test will be a special moment for All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, who will reach another milestone in his outstanding career when he captains the team for the 100th time in a Test in his 137th Test.
It will be a fitting occasion, as McCaw captained the All Blacks for the first time against the Welsh exactly 10 years ago today, on 20 November 2004, in his 25th Test.
The selectors have named an experienced starting forward pack, with hooker Dane Coles and props Wyatt Crockett and Owen Franks making up the front row. Locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock return to the second row, while McCaw is re-joined by the hard-hitting Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read in the back row.
The All Blacks also have experienced forward firepower to call on from the bench, with 122-Test hooker Keven Mealamu, prop Charlie Faumuina and loose forward Liam Messam complementing the younger duo of lock Patrick Tuipulotu and prop Joe Moody.
In the backs, halfback Aaron Smith will start his 12th Test of the year, while fly-half Beauden Barrett has been given the ten jersey. Sonny Bill Williams and Conrad Smith, in his 85th Test, are in the midfield, while Julian Savea and Charles Piutau are on the wings and Ben Smith is at full-back. The back reserves are half-back TJ Perenara, Colin Slade and Ryan Crotty.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “This was a very difficult team to select as we have a lot of players in great form. However, we believe this is the right combination of 23 players to represent the All Blacks and New Zealand very proudly on Saturday.
“It’s always a great occasion to play at Millennium Stadium, which is one of the great stadiums in the world. We have had a good week’s preparation and we are expecting a physical Test with a high ‘ball-in-play’ time. We know we will have to be totally engaged in our own roles for the full 80 minutes and take the game to the Welsh at every opportunity.”
Hansen also paid tribute to McCaw and Mealamu, who will also go into the New Zealand rugby record books when he comes off the bench on Saturday, playing his 362nd first-class game.
“On behalf of the team and myself, we would like to congratulate Richie on the impressive milestone of captaining his country in 100 Test matches. There is no doubt his leadership has grown phenomenally over the years and he is now one of the all-time great leaders of any sports team.
“We would also like to congratulate Kevie in advance of his achievement. He is a wonderful player and ambassador for the All Blacks and his country.”
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Charles Piutau, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Liam Messam, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Ryan Crotty
Date: Saturday, November 22
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 17:30 local (GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Luke Pearce (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)