Australia v New Zealand, The Rugby Championship, August 18
SBW to partner Nonu in All Blacks' midfield
August 15, 2012
Captain Richie McCaw will be back in his familiar openside berth on Saturday night © Getty Images
Sonny Bill Williams and Ma'a Nonu will team up in the All Blacks' midfield against Australia on Saturday for the first time since last year's Rugby World Cup.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has decided to recall Nonu for his side's opening Rugby Championship clash in Sydney as a replacement for the injured Conrad Smith. Nonu will partner Williams, who was only cleared to take part earlier this week, for the first time since the 41-10 victory over Tonga in the World Cup opener ten months ago.
In a surprise call, Crusaders lock Luke Romano is favoured ahead of Brodie Retallick and is handed what will be only his second cap having recovered from the shoulder injury that ruled him out of last month's Super Rugby semi-final against the Chiefs. Elsewhere, flanker Liam Messam's impressive for for the Chiefs appears to have boosted his rating as he gets the nod ahead of Adam Thomson and Victor Vito at blindside.
The front row features the most capped All Blacks prop and hooker of all time in Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu, alongside Owen Franks, while Sam Whitelock takes the other second row berth. In the loose forwards, captain Richie McCaw is back at openside after playing No.8 in his last All Blacks outing, with Kieran Read returning to the back of the scrum.
In the backs, scrum-half Aaron Smith combines with returning fly-half Daniel Carter; Cory Jane is back on the right wing, Hosea Gear is on the left and Israel Dagg at fullback.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: "Saturday's Bledisloe Cup contest brings two challenges. The first is our opponents who we clearly respect. But just as important is the second challenge, which is about us being better than we were before. The expectation this All Blacks team has, is that it will strive to achieve these goals, both individually and collectively as a team."
New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Cory Jane, Ma'a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Hose Gear; Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith; Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Samuel Whitelock, Liam Messam, Richie McCaw (capt), Kieran Read.
Replacements: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Brodie Retallick, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith
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