A number of New Zealand fringe players have been given their chance to impress along with a solid mix of experience for Friday’s World Cup opener against Tonga.
The likes of 40-Test plus All Blacks Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Brad Thorn, Ali Williams, Jerome Kaino, captain Richie McCaw, Jimmy Cowan, Dan Carter and Ma’a Nonu have all been included in coach Graham Henry’s starting XV.
Around them are players given limited time in the recent Tri Nations series, who are able to push their cases ahead of bigger matches in the tournament.
The forward pack is a strong one with only number eight Victor Vito considered a relative newcomer in only his third start in the black jersey.
A new-look back line sees a familiar combination in Cowan and Carter at number nine and 10 respectively, with a host of interesting selections outside them.
Sonny Bill Williams’ appearance at inside centre pushes Nonu out a spot to outside centre, while utilities Isaia Toeava and Richard Kahui line up on the wings and Israel Dagg gets another chance to impress at full-back.
The bench features an appearance of lock Anthony Boric for the first time in 2011 as he makes a recovery from a foot injury suffered in Super 15.
Coach Henry said it was important for the selectors to give the backbone of his best XV regular game time together, but had to balance that with giving the full squad meaningful minutes.
“There is real competition in a number of positions, at full-back and on the wings and other positions as well, and the selection of the starting XV reflects that,” Henry said.
“Those players selected have now been given the opportunity which is exciting and they will all look to make the most of their chance.”
New Zealand team: Israel Dagg; Richard Kahui, Ma’a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Isaia Toeava; Daniel Carter, Jimmy Cowan; Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Ali Williams, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw, Victor Vito.
Replacements: Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Anthony Boric, Sam Whitelock, Piri Weepu, Colin Slade, Cory Jane.