All Blacks coach Graham Henry on Tuesday named a team that shows four changes for the opening Test of the Tri-Nations, against South Africa at Eden Park, Auckland, on Saturday.
The most significant of the changes, from the starting XV which featured in the second Test against Wales in Hamilton last month, will see Hurricanes stars Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith reunited in the midfield.
Forty-six-Test veteran, Nonu, returns from his knee injury to start at inside centre, with Smith, who has recovered from his eye injury, at outside centre.
Also back in Black is 62-Test wing Josevata Rokocoko – on the left wing.
In the only change to the pack, Owen Franks comes into the front row at tighthead prop.
On the bench, Corey Flynn is the reserve hooker alongside prop Ben Franks. Sam Whitelock will cover the second row, with Liam Messam covering the loose forwards. Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden and Richard Kahui are the back reserves.
Henry admitted that facing the Boks, even on home soil, was a tall order first-up for his charges.
“The Springboks are the defending Tri-Nations champions and, like us, will be keen to kick off their campaign on a winning note,” the Kiwi boss said.
“However, our squad has prepared well and the players are excited by the first up challenge this weekend.
“It’s going to be a massive kick off to the competition.”
Two All Blacks reach significant milestones this weekend: hooker Keven Mealamu is playing his 75th Test and will become the sixth most capped All Black in history, whilst first five-eighth Dan Carter is playing his 70th Test, joining his former Canterbury, Crusaders and All Blacks teammate Andrew Mehrtens.
Meanwhile, this weekend’s Test marks a special milestone for Eden Park – it will be 90 years to the day since the All Blacks first played a match at the famous ground.
The first All Black match at Eden Park was against Auckland on Saturday 10 July 1920, with 9,000 people turning up on a fine day for the match which ended in an 11-all draw.
New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Josevata Rokocoko, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Samuel Whitelock, 19 Liam Messam, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Richard Kahui.
Date: Saturday, July 10
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT; 09.35 SA time)
Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
TMO: TBC (New Zealand)
This article is courtesy of www.rugby365.comTweet