All Blacks back in full force

Dan Carter (File)
Dan Carter (File)

Wellington - New Zealand coach Graham Henry has named a near full-strength line-up for their Tri-Nations title decider against Australia on Saturday, recalling captain Richie McCaw and a host of front-line players rested for last week's loss against South Africa.

Dan Carter returns to push stand-in flyhalf Colin Slade to the bench, while tighthead prop Owen Franks has been named in the team released on Thursday in place of John Afoa after the All Blacks pack was outmuscled by the Springboks.

Brad Thorn, also rested for the 18-5 loss in Port Elizabeth, returns to the second row at the expense of lock Ali Williams for the match at Brisbane's Lang Park, which will decide southern hemisphere bragging rights ahead of next month's World Cup.

Henry has replaced the entire backline that failed to convert a number of chances into tries against South Africa, with centre pairing Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith re-united as the All Blacks seek to retain the Tri-Nations trophy.

Piri Weepu has dislodged Jimmy Cowan as the starting scrumhalf, while Zac Guildford and Cory Jane start on the wings. Fullback Mils Muliaina will play his 98th Test in place of Israel Dagg.

The only notable absence is Jerome Kaino, rested after the South Africa match, allowing Adam Thomson to return to his favoured blindside flanker position after struggling in McCaw's openside spot against the Springboks.

Kieran Read comes in for the dropped Liam Messam at number eight in a side that boasts 10 of the starting 15 that humbled the Wallabies 30-14 in their Tri-Nations opener at Eden Park earlier this month.

"This is a tournament-defining match for the team," Henry said in a statement.

"The winner wins the ... Tri Nations, it's as simple as that. Australia are a dangerous team to play and they will be looking to bounce back from the loss against us in Auckland, so we will have to play at our very best.

"It's going to be a massive Test match."

The All Blacks have beaten Australia in 11 out of their past 12 matches and are favourites to win their second World Cup on home soil. The tournament starts on Sept. 9.


Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Anthony Fainga'a, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Radike Samo, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Dan Vickerman, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu

Substitutes: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Salesi Ma'afu, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Luke Burgess, 22 TBC

New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock

Substitutes: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 John Afoa, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Isaia Toeava

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