All Blacks call on Franks & NZPA
July 25, 2009
New Zealand prop Owen Franks during training at Carisbrook, Dunedin on June 7, 2009
Owen Franks will pack down for the All Blacks in Durban © Getty Images

Graham Henry has called on young Canterbury prop Owen Franks to anchor the All Blacks' scrum against South Africa in Durban on Saturday. Franks replaces 36-test prop Neemia Tialata, who suffered a knee strain early in last weekend's 28-19 defeat.

One other change sees Jimmy Cowan return as the starting scrum-half in place of Brendon Leonard. Both Leonard and Tialata miss out on the 22 completely, with John Afoa promoted to the bench as cover for Franks while Piri Weepu remains the backup No.9.

Forwards coach Steve Hansen signposted Franks' elevation when asked to assess the scrum battle not long after the Bloemfontein defeat, where Franks impressed in a second-half cameo.

"Our scrum came right in the second half," was the frill-free response.

His first start in Super 14 rugby came as recently as April, when he packed down against the Bulls in Christchurch. His performance that day turned heads, including that of Hansen, who watched him closely over the last six weeks of the Super 14. He won Junior All Blacks selection but never joined that team in the Pacific Nations Cup, instead called into the national squad as a standby player for the June tests, where he set about boring in on a test berth.

Meanwhile, the All Blacks coaches have resisted making other changes to the forward pack, meaning Rodney So'oialo will play his 58th test, the number reached by former All Blacks No.8 Zinzan Brooke when he retired in 1997 and Andrew Hore retains the hooker's jersey despite his nightmare throwing performances against Australia and in last weekend's loss.

The back division remains the same aside from Cowan's inclusion. He was impressive in the defeat of Australia at Auckland and coach Graham Henry admitted it was a wrench to rotate him out of last week's test, where Leonard failed to take his opportunity.

New Zealand: Mils Muliaina, Joe Rokocoko, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Stephen Donald, Jimmy Cowan, Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Isaac Ross, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Rodney So'oialo, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Isaac Ross, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: Keven Mealamu, John Afoa, Jason Eaton, Kieran Read, Piri Weepu, Luke McAlister, Cory Jane


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