HONG KONG // The All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter will make a rare appearance at inside centre when New Zealand play Australia in their Bledisloe Cup clash in Hong Kong on Saturday. The coach Graham Henry moved Carter from his regular position to give his understudy Stephen Donald the chance to start at fly-half. "Stephen has taken his opportunities this year and he was influential when he came on in the last Bledisloe Cup Test in Brisbane and deserves to start," Henry said.
Henry also awarded a first cap to Hosea Gear as a reward for the Wellington winger's outstanding form in New Zealand's National Provincial Championship (NPC), which was used as the basis to select the team. Eight of the 15 players chosen to start against Australia featured in last week's NPC final, where Canterbury beat Wellington 7-6. "Hosea was the competition's leading try scorer. He comes into the team in fantastic form," Henry added.
"There is an element of match hardness in the squad with most players having played NPC rugby over the last month." Prop Greg Somerville was included on the bench after being added to the squad on the weekend as an emergency back-up for the injured John Afoa. The experienced Somerville was originally omitted from the squad after Henry wanted to experiment with some of his younger players as he is still recovering from a knee injury.
The holders New Zealand have already retained the Bledisloe Cup ahead of Saturday's Test, having won two of the three meetings between the teams on their way to clinching this year's Tri-Nations tournament. New Zealand: Mils Muliaina, Hosea Gear, Conrad Smith, Dan Carter, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Stephen Donald, Jimmy Cowan, Rodney So'oialo, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Ali Williams, Brad Thorn, Neemia Tialata, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Greg Somerville, Anthony Boric, Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Ma'a Nonu, Isaia Toeava.