Friday Jun 25, 2010
As he has done for most of his illustrious career, Daniel Carter emerged triumphant yesterday in the battle of the five-eighths.
The All Black backline leader survived a strong training session in Hamilton after sitting out several practices earlier in the week to rest a tender calf muscle.
Across town, Wales revealed they would start Dan Biggar in the famous red No 10 jersey because senior operator Stephen Jones is struggling with a thumb injury.
Selection of the 20-year-old Biggar and Jonathan Davies, who replaces injured centre Andrew Bishop, were the only changes to the visitors' starting XV.
The All Blacks had whistled up the versatile Luke McAlister as temporary backline cover after his strong game in the Maori victory against England.
McAlister's call-up suggests he will be close to the mix when the All Blacks name their Tri-Nations squad on Sunday.
Carter looked strong in the All Blacks' run yesterday at Beetham Park but the medical staff will be cautious until they check him today to make sure he has not suffered any adverse reaction to his hitout.
Fullback Mils Muliaina ran strongly after his recent injuries as he and captain Richie McCaw prepared to head into their 83rd test matches.
McCaw said the return of his regular fullback would provide added direction, experience and authority. As long as he felt fine, he would be ready to go. "It is often easier to come back into a team when you have not played a lot of rugby, and others round you have. His experience should help, too. I'm sure he will not take long to get back into it."
Another on the comeback is lock Tom Donnelly, who has played even less rugby than Muliaina.
"I've only played five games so they have picked me on faith and it is time to repay that really," he said.
He did not expect to last the whole test but had been boosted by the selectors' faith in him.
The All Blacks have made seven changes to their side and McCaw wants them to make a much stronger start than they did a week ago in Dunedin.
Wales, on the other hand, would look at their first half in Carisbrook for messages about applying pressure.
"I think they will be hurting, they will want to be physical and get stuck in," he said.
Welsh coach Warren Gatland admitted several of his side struggled with the intensity at Carisbrook in their 42-9 defeat.
He had given them a further chance while he wanted his side to show New Zealanders they were worthy international opponents.
Biggar was only 20 with just five caps since his debut two years ago, said Gatland.
"We've known he is a kid with a bit of talent.
"Back home there's mixed views about Dan. A lot of people love him or hate him.
"That's an unfortunate thing that tends to happen with 10s back home but he trained really well and he's a young man with a lot of potential, a lot of leadership qualities."
Biggar replaces Jones, who is vastly experienced with 90 caps but may yet be removed from the reserves because of the hand injury he suffered at Carisbrook.
By Wynne Gray