Blacks pick strongest side

NEW ZEALAND have named what appears to be their first-choice side for Saturday’s Tri-Nations decider against the Wallabies.

The side includes ten of the starting 15 who featured in the 30-14 victory over the Wallabies earlier this month, with Richie McCaw returning to captain the side in his 98th Test.

The most notable absentee is Jerome Kaino as Adam Thomson moves to blindside flank.

Owen Franks returns to the front row alongside prop Tony Woodcock and hooker Keven Mealamu, who started last week’s Test against South Africa.

Brad Thorn is back at lock together with Sam Whitelock, who was in last week’s run-on team, while in the loose forwards McCaw is at openside and Kieran Read is at number eight.

In the backs, Piri Weepu gets the nod at scrum-half and Daniel Carter returns the 10 jersey. The All Blacks’ most-capped midfield of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith are reunited, with Nonu also joining Walter Little as the most capped All Blacks outside centre (45). Zac Guildford and Cory Jane will start on the wings, with Mils Muliaina at full-back.

The All Blacks and Wallabies have played each other 141 times, with 96 wins to the All Blacks, 40 to Australia and five draws.

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