NZ unchanged for decider

2008-09-09 07:44

Australia - The All Blacks on Tuesday named an unchanged team for their Tri-Nations rugby series decider against the Wallabies on Saturday.

New Zealand, who have held the southern hemisphere title since 2005, will field the same starting XV against Australia as in their previous two tournament outings.

The All Blacks, who lead the Australians by one point heading into the final game, beat Australia 39-10 in Auckland and South Africa 19-0 in Cape Town in their last two internationals with the same combination.

"It's a very competitive Tri-Nations series this year," All Blacks coach Graham Henry said. "Every match has been more important than the one before it and this Test decides the championship.

"So we're trying to make sure we get our preparation exactly right," he added.

Australia, who downed the All Blacks 34-19 in Sydney on July 26, crashed to a record 53-8 loss to South Africa in Johannesburg in their last outing on August 30.

"Australia's last result was out-of-character and we expect a real battle," Henry said.

Inspirational skipper

A decision on the team's reserve prop will be made on Friday as John Afoa's recovery from a sore shoulder is monitored and was bracketed with Neemia Tialata, a team spokesperson said.

Inspirational skipper and open-side flanker Richie McCaw (ribs), lock Brad Thorn (hamstring) and winger Sitiveni Sivivatu (ankle) returned to the starting lineup after they were rested from last week's 101-14 romp against Samoa in New Plymouth with minor injuries.

McCaw, a key player in scooping up turnover possession, has trained strongly this week to allay any fears about his injury.

"It's a reasonably new team from last year and we're trying to be reasonably consistent with combinations," Henry said.

Winger Anthony Tuitavake (broken cheekbone) was ruled out while flanker Adam Thomson and lock Anthony Boric were both relegated to the reserves after starting against Samoa.

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