Dan Carter has been confirmed at flyhalf in the New Zealand team to face Australia in their Bledisloe Cup/Tri-Nations double header in Sydney on Saturday.
Carter returns to the starting XV in his 60th Test, with Luke McAlister getting his second Test start of the year outside Carter at inside centre, in his 28th Test.
The inclusion of Carter and McAlister sees Stephen Donald and Ma’a Nonu move to the replacement bench.
Carter, who will be playing his 14th Test against Australia, has scored 153 points against the trans-Tasman foes and is third on the All Blacks list behind Andrew Mehrtens (202) and Grant Fox (159).
In the forwards, Kieran Read gets his fifth Test start in his 10th Test, picked at No.8, with Rodney So’oialo on the bench.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry admitted that his team has their backs to the wall, following their series whitewash against the Springboks in South Africa – which left New Zealand with one win in three starts in the Tri-Nations.
“It doesn’t get much bigger than this,” Henry said.
“The Bledisloe Cup is on the line and it’s really a win or lose match in the Tri-Nations, so that makes it an exciting challenge for us.”
Meanwhile, All Black fullback Mils Muliaina reaches a special milestone this weekend, playing in his 75th Test, while Richie McCaw will again captain the All Blacks for the 36th time in his 74th Test.
It’s also a milestone Test for the All Blacks coaching trio of Graham Henry, Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen – with the coaches taking charge of their 70th All Blacks Test, in what has been a hugely successful coaching career.
The trio have coached the All Blacks to 58 victories in 69 Tests, for a winning record of 84 percent.
The All Blacks have also retained the Bledisloe Cup since 2003, won the Tri-Nations every year since 2005 and achieved a 3-0 Test sweep of the British and Irish Lions in 2005.
The All Blacks were named IRB Team of the Year and Graham Henry Coach of the Year in 2005, 2006 and again in 2008, with Henry awarded the Pierre de Coubertin Trophy in 2008, the highest distinction awarded by the International Committee for Fair Play (ICPF).
The All Blacks were also finalist for team of the year for their 2006-2007 season at the 2007 Laureus Sports Awards alongside FC Barcelona (soccer), the European Ryder Cup team (golf), Italy (soccer), Renault (F1) and the Spanish basketball team.
The All Blacks have played Australia 133 times since 1903 with 89 wins to the All Blacks, 39 to Australia and five draws.
The All Blacks won the last Test 22-16 in last month’s Tri-Nations competition opener in Auckland and also won the last Test in Australia, the 28-24 win in Brisbane during last year’s Tri-Nations.
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Josevata Rokocoko, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 John Afoa, 18 Jason Eaton, 19 Rodney So’oialo,
20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Ma’a Nonu.