All Blacks Carter, Mealamu back for England Test
LONDON (AFP) –
All Blacks veterans Dan Carter and Keven Mealamu are set to return from injury to face England at Twickenham on Saturday, as the world champions look to end their 2012 season undefeated.
Coach Steve Hansen named the pair in his starting line-up, although both will be subject to late fitness tests, along with prop Tony Woodcock.
Hansen made three changes to the run-on side that beat Wales 33-10 last weekend, naming his strongest team against an England side itching for a Southern Hemisphere scalp following closely fought losses to Australia and South Africa.
“We know that the English will lift themselves for their final match of the year, especially following their two recent narrow defeats, and we need to be prepared to match them in all facets,” he said.
Carter, a late withdrawal from the Wales Test after suffering an Achilles injury in training, resumes fly-half duties, relegating Aaron Cruden to the bench.
Hooker Mealamu replaces Andrew Hore, who was suspended for five matches after punching lock Bradley Davies from behind in the win over Wales. Dane Coles will provide backup from the bench in case his calf injury flares again.
Lock Brodie Retallick was selected over Luke Romano to face the physical England pack.
“He (Retallick) has got a big motor, he goes all day long and we just thought this game would suit him,” Hansen said.
The All Blacks have swept all before them while in Europe, defeating Scotland (51-22), Italy (42-10) and Wales (33-10).
The New Zealanders are undefeated in 20 games and a win on Saturday would see them go the entire season without a loss for the first time since 1997.
They have not been beaten in a Test on a Northern Hemisphere tour since 2002, when England won 31-28 at Twickenham.
Since then New Zealand have beaten England nine times, with five of the victories at Twickenham.
The match will be skipper Richie McCaw’s last before he takes a six-month sabbatical from rugby, after a gruelling schedule which included leading the All Blacks to victory in last year’s World Cup.
The break is designed to extend the three-time IRB player of the year’s career to the next tournament in 2015, with heir-apparent Kieran Read poised to take over the captain’s duties in his absence.
New Zealand 15-1
Israel Dagg; Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea; Dan Carter, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.
Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Luke Romano, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.