Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Inspirational McCaw returns to lift deflated All Blacks


AFP - July 29, 2008, 5:18 pm

AUCKLAND (AFP) - Inspirational captain Richie McCaw returns from injury to boost a revamped All Blacks side in the rematch against Australia, as coach Graham Henry called for a change of attitude.

Also back from injury for Saturday's clash is Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock, recalled to bolster an Australian side seeking its first win in Auckland in 22 years.

The 19-34 thrashing by the Wallabies in last weekend's Tri-Nations Test in Sydney has forced Henry to make several changes to his starting line-up to shore up the weak points.

Notably, the return of McCaw after six weeks out with an ankle injury will allow stand-in captain Rodney So'oialo and Jerome Kaino to return to their specialist positions of No 8 and blindside flanker.

McCaw's absence left a huge hole in the All Blacks ball-winning abilities and they were clearly outplayed at the breakdowns last weekend by Wallabies' trio George Smith, Rocky Elsom and Wycliff Paul.

Sione Lauaki, who had an error-filled run in the first Test against Australia, has been dropped from the squad as has winger Anthony Tuitavake.
Mils Muliaina now moves to the right wing allowing Leon MacDonald to start at fullback while Conrad Smith returns to the midfield in place of the novice Richard Kahui.

"We've made some tactical changes in our selections, but we also need to change how we play," Henry said."Clearly there are areas we need to improve on from Sydney. We have to have the right game plan and execution."

Injury concerns in crucial areas have also hampered Henry's selection.

Andrew Hore, who suffered a hip injury in Sydney, has been bracketed with Keven Mealamu at hooker while Jimmy Cowan, Andy Ellis and Piri Weepu are all bracketed at halfback, with Cowan and Ellis both in doubt.

A final decision on the injured players will be made on Thursday.

Injury forced Mortlock out of Australia's win over the All Blacks last Saturday, a victory which set the Wallabies atop the Tri-Nations table and gave them an early lead in the four-match Bledisloe Cup series.

His inclusion is one of two changes to coach Robbie Deans' starting line-up, with Phil Waugh named to replace the injured Rocky Elson.

Waugh and George Smith will form an imposing flanker partnership.
"They're two quality players, it's good to get both of them on the ground," Deans said.

Ryan Cross, who replaced Mortlock in last Saturday's Test, was named on the bench, bumping Timana Tahu out of the match-day squad.
Hugh McMeniman will take Waugh's place on the bench.

All Blacks (15-1)
Leon MacDonald, Mils Muliaina, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Dan Carter, Jimmy Cowan/Piri Weepu/Andrew Ellis, Rodney So'oialo, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Ali Williams, Brad Thorn, Greg Somerville, Andrew Hore/Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Hore/Mealumu, John Afoa, Anthony Boric, Adam Thomson/Daniel Braid, Cowan/Weepu/Ellis, Stephen Donald, Richard Kahui.

Australia (15-1)
Adam Ashley-Cooper, Peter Hynes, Stirling Mortlock (captain), Berrick Barnes, Lote Tuqiri, Matt Giteau, Luke Burgess, Wycliff Palu, George Smith, Phil Waugh, Nathan Sharpe, James Horwill, Al Baxter, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson.
Reserves: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Matt Dunning, Dan Vickerman, Hugh McMeniman, Sam Cordingley, Ryan Cross, Drew Mitchell.

NB : The ABs are in red because grey on black gives a weird white ; and black on black gives nothing. Thanks for your understanding.

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