MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA // New Zealand have turned to the experience of wing Joe Rokocoko ahead of their first encounter with Australia in this year's Tri Nations. Rokocoko, 27, who has been out with a hamstring injury, returns in place of Rene Ranger, who was dropped after a try-scoring performance in New Zealand's 31-17 win over the Springboks earlier this month, and will play his 64th Test, moving him ahead of John Kirwan and Jonah Lomu as the All Blacks' most capped winger.
"We've gone for the guy who's been there and done that and done it well in the past," Graham Henry, the All Blacks coach, said of the specialist winger. "We think Joe's done his job for us and obviously he's under pressure. There's other guys playing well in that position. Israel Dagg came on against the South Africans in that position and had some magic moments in the short time he was on the field."
Henry also recalled Jimmy Cowan at scrum-half in the place of new father Piri Weepu. Weepu, who replaced Cowan against South Africa earlier this month, celebrated the birth of his first child earlier this week and is named on the bench. "I think if he had been here right through the week he could have started ... but you know we've trained for three days, set a foundation and Jim's been involved in that so that's one factor," Henry said. "That's no reflection obviously on how he [Weepu] played in the last game, he played superbly."
Opponents Australia consigned the Springboks to their third successive defeat on Saturday, but have lost their past seven games against the All Blacks. "There's no guarantee that will continue," Henry said. "I don't know what Robbie's got up his sleeve," he added of his opposite number and fellow New Zealander Robbie Deans. "Maybe tactically it's going to be a wee bit different than playing the Boks, but the nature of the game really is about ball retention and I can't see either side kicking it away too much."
Deans has switched Matt Giteau to fly-half and recalled Berrick Barnes, the utility back, as cover for the suspended Quade Cooper for Saturday's game. Cooper is appealing a two-week suspension after being cited for lifting Morne Steyn in a tackle during the 30-13 win over the Boks in Brisbane last week. The hearing is scheduled for today. "We've prepared on the basis that Quade won't be available to us, so we won't contemplate anything other than that until such time it becomes a reality and then we'll deal with it," Deans said.