Gallaher Cup - New Zealand v France
Dan Carter in line for third Test
June 17, 2013
Ben Smith may be rested from the third Test © Getty Images
All Blacks selectors are set to gamble on a changed line-up for the final Gallaher Cup Test against France in New Plymouth on Saturday, taking advantage of the fact they have already claimed the series with wins in Auckland, 23-13, and Christchurch, 30-0, to gift game time to players who need it most.
"It's all about risk and reward," coach Steve Hansen said of the gamble. "The risk's not so high at the moment, we've won the series. And the rewards of getting guys on the track and seeing how they go will be good."
The return to fitness of veteran first five-eighth Dan Carter may see him start ahead of Aaron Cruden, despite the latter's superb game at Christchurch. World-record Test points-scorer Carter missed the first two Tests because of a cracked bone in his right hand, but he been cleared to return to full training this week.
Experienced prop Tony Woodcock could start after playing off the bench in Christchurch, after fighting off a nose infection, while either of the squad's 34-year-old hookers, Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore, could replace Dane Coles. Hansen has a host of other options at his disposal, including handing a debut start to any of the uncapped Blues trio in his squad - fullback Charles Piutau, midfield back Francis Saili or flanker Steven Luatua.
Steve Hansen said the second Test win was just reward for hard work%]
With his team riding high after one of their best performances in recent times, Hansen is reluctant to overplay his hand. "You can't just make wholesale changes and chuck people out there. We've talked about taking risks. We will look at the long-term plan as well as the short-term one."
Hansen said New Zealand still had to respect France, rejecting a suggestion the tourists would be fragile in New Plymouth after such a comprehensive loss in Christchurch. Their resilience shouldn't be underestimated, he said, nor their ability to respond to a stinging defeat. "We've got to stay humble, keep our feet on the ground and work just as hard so we get a performance that we can be proud of."