MacDonald, who has played in 29 Tests since making his debut against Scotland in Dunedin in 2000, beat his fellow utility back after impressing most in NPC action this week.
MacDonald's Canterbury retained the Ranfurly Shield against Bay of Plenty, although McAlister played a pivotal role as North Harbour won in Wellington.
National team coach Graham Henry brought in McAlister for the last Test that Carter missed the third British and Irish Lions match in Auckland.
Henry based his decision on form, saying: "Leon played exceptionally well for Canterbury at the weekend."
Piri Weepu retains the half-back position, with Byron Kelleher continuing his recovery from concussion. Kelleher initially joined the squad in Dunedin for a medical assessment, but then returned home. Kevin Senio will deputise again.
Auckland winger Doug Howlett, recalled for the Test, is expected to start on the bench.
JOSH LEWSEY is set to be out of action until the middle of October after undergoing shoulder surgery but the Wasps full-back is refusing to be downbeat and sees the enforced lay-off as a "blessing in disguise".
Lewsey suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder on the Lions tour of New Zealand and could not risk leaving the problem untreated heading into the new season.
It means missing up to two months of the new campaign but Lewsey, who is recovering fast and is already back in the gym, is refusing to be downbeat.
England centre Mike Tindall is set to make his debut for Gloucester on Friday against Viadana in a testimonial for Mark Cornwell.
The 26-year-old, who was a member of England's World Cup-winning side but has had a series of long-term injuries since, will feature in the match for Cornwell's 10 years at Kingsholm.
Tindall has been recovering from a shoulder injury and hopes to be ready for the start of the Guinness Premiership against Worcester on September 4.
NEW ZEALAND: M Muliaina, R Gear, T Umaga (Captain), A Mauger, J Rokocoko, L MacDonald, P Weepu, T Woodcock, K Mealamu, C Hayman, C Jack, A Williams, J Collins, R McCaw, R So'oialo. Reserves: D Witcombe, G Somerville, J Ryan, S Lauaki, K Senio, L McAlister, D Howlett