Hometown decision as Marshall gets the nod

EVERGREEN Justin Marshall won the contentious battle of the New Zealand half-backs when the All Blacks selectors showed their hand for the first Test against the Lions.

Marshall’s inclusion for Saturday’s Test at Jade Stadium is one of five changes to the team which won its sole warm-up match by beating Fiji 91-0 on June 10.

The other changes see the return of forwards Chris Jack and Keven Mealamu, who were on the bench for the Fiji Test, and full-back Leon MacDonald and prop Carl Hayman, who had been away with the New Zealand Maori side.

“It has been a challenge to pick the side,” said coach Graham Henry, indicating that home-ground knowledge played a role in the selection of Marshall, MacDonald and Aaron Mauger - members of the champion Canterbury Crusaders teams whose base is at Jade Stadium.

“It’s fairly logical. Those players are seen more, they get a bit of an advantage because they play in a side that is dominating.

“Justin has played all his rugby here for the last 10-12 years. This is where he’s grown up, this is where he’s developed, this is his home. We thought that was a positive.”

All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith said the way the Crusaders won the Super 12 championship was also influential in selecting the inside backs.

“The Marshall, (Daniel) Carter, Mauger trilogy was very effective and they play the type of game that we’ve been trying to play and we played towards the end of last year,” he said.

The outspoken Marshall, who will join English club Leeds after the series, had appeared to be on the outside after publicly sniping about motivation and lack of communication from All Blacks coach Graham Henry.

When he finally confirmed his availability for the series at the start of the month, the 78-Test veteran was only named as a reserve for the Fiji Test with long-time rival Byron Kelleher in the starting line-up.

Henry, faced with a luxury of options in the midfield, has opted for a combination of captain Tana Umaga and Mauger in the centres, leaving no room for the versatile Mils Muliaina after MacDonald was preferred at full-back.

After toying with Umaga at outside and inside centre, Henry’s decision to put Mauger in the inside role because of his astute kicking game means Umaga will go head-to-head with Lions skipper Brian O’Driscoll.

Both MacDonald and Mauger can back up Carter, the only specialist fly-half and goal-kicker named in the team.

“Leon’s play for the New Zealand Maori was exceptional,” said Henry.

Along with Muliaina, Henry said there were several other All Blacks unlucky to be edged out of the starting side.

“Conrad Smith, Rico Gear, Byron Kelleher, Jono Gibbes and Greg Somerville, for example, are playing good football, but we can only start 15.”

Meanwhile, France coach Bernard Laporte has made eight changes to his starting XV which will face South Africa in the second Test on Saturday.

FRANCE (v South Africa): N Brusque; V Clerc, Y Jauzion, D Traille, C Heymans; F Michalak, D Yachvili; S Marconnet, W Servat, P De Villiers, T Privat, P Pape, Y Nyanga, R Martin, J Bonaire.

Replacements: S Bruno, O Milloud, G Lamboley, O Magne, J Elissalde, B Baby, J Laharrague.

SOUTH AFRICA (v France): P. Montgomery; J. de Villiers, M. Joubert, D Wet Barry, B. Habana; J. van der Westhuyzen, E. Januarie; L. Sephaka, J. Smit (capt), O. du Randt, A. van der Berg, V. Matfield, S. Burger, D. Rossouw, J. Cronje.

Replacements: CJ van der Linde, H. Shimange, J. Smith, J. van Niekerk, B. Conradie, B. Russell, J. Fourie.

More in this section

CourtsRugbyInternationalPlace: Jade StadiumPerson: MarshallPerson: Justin MarshallPerson: Chris JackPerson: Keven MealamuPerson: Leon MacDonaldPerson: Carl HaymanPerson: Graham HenryPerson: MacdonaldPerson: Aaron MaugerPerson: JustinPerson: Wayne SmithPerson: DanielPerson: MaugerPerson: Byron KelleherPerson: HenryPerson: Tana UmagaPerson: Mils MuliainaPerson: UmagaPerson: Brian O’DriscollPerson: CarterPerson: LeonPerson: MuliainaPerson: Conrad SmithPerson: Rico GearPerson: Jono GibbesPerson: Greg SomervillePerson: Bernard LaportePerson: V ClercPerson: Y JauzionPerson: D TraillePerson: C HeymansPerson: F MichalakPerson: D YachviliPerson: S MarconnetPerson: W ServatPerson: P de VilliersPerson: T PrivatPerson: P PapePerson: Y NyangaPerson: R MartinPerson: J BonairePerson: S BrunoPerson: O MilloudPerson: G LamboleyPerson: O MagnePerson: J ElissaldePerson: B BabyPerson: J LaharraguePerson: P. MontgomeryPerson: J. de VilliersPerson: M. JoubertPerson: D Wet BarryPerson: B. HabanaPerson: J. van der WesthuyzenPerson: E. JanuariePerson: L. SephakaPerson: J. SmitPerson: O. du RandtPerson: A. van der BergPerson: V. MatfieldPerson: S. BurgerPerson: D. RossouwPerson: J. CronjePerson: CJ van der LindePerson: H. ShimangePerson: J. SmithPerson: J. van NiekerkPerson: B. ConradiePerson: B. RussellPerson: J. FourieEvent: Fiji TestEvent: Super 12 championshipOrganisation: New ZealandOrganisation: All BlacksOrganisation: LionsOrganisation: FijiOrganisation: NewOrganisation: Canterbury CrusadersOrganisation: CrusadersOrganisation: LeedsOrganisation: FranceOrganisation: South Africa
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