Daniel Carter has been named in the New Zealand starting XV for Saturday’s must-win Tri-Nations/Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia in Sydney.
Since being recalled to the All Blacks squad last week following good performances for his province Canterbury, the star fly-half had been expected to slot straight back into the number 10 position after both Stephen Donald and Luke McAlister struggled in the role while he was absent with an Achilles injury.
Donald now finds himself on the bench, while McAlister, in his preferred position of inside centre, gets his second start this year, replacing Ma’a Nonu in the midfield.
Joining Nonu and Donald on the bench is number eight Rodney So’oialo, who has also paid for some indifferent form and has been replaced by Kieran Read.
In all there are three changes to the starting XV that took to the field against South Africa in Durban at the start of the month.
Elsewhere in the reserves, hooker Aled de Malmanche gets his first crack in the Tri-Nations, taking over from the injured Keven Mealamu, and Brendon Leonard replaces Piri Weepu, who is out with an ankle injury.
Cory Jane, who was on the bench in Durban, has missed out altogether with coach Graham Henry opting for Nonu in the reserves and choosing to stick with Joe Rokocoko on the right wing despite him struggling with his form.
“It doesn’t get much bigger than this,” said Henry, who along with his assistants Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen will take charge of their 70th All Blacks Test on Saturday.
“The Bledisloe Cup is on the line and it’s really a win or lose match in the Tri-Nations so that makes it an exciting challenge for us.”
New Zealand Team: Mils Muliaina; Joe Rokocoko, Conrad Smith, Luke McAlister, Sitiveni Sivivatu; Daniel Carter, Jimmy Cowan; Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Isaac Ross, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (capt), Kieran Read.
Reserves: Aled de Malmanche, John Afoa, Jason Eaton, Rodney So’oialo, Brendon Leonard, Stephen Donald, Ma’a Nonu.