Piri Weepu will start at scrum-half for the All Blacks against Australia in the Tri Nations Test in Christchurch on Saturday after reclaiming his place in the side from the injured Jimmy Cowan. The return of Weepu, who started on the bench for last Saturday's 49-28 mauling of the Wallabies in Melbourne after missing part of the build-up because of the birth of his first child, is one of three changes to the New Zealand squad.
"The win on the weekend was very pleasing and the exciting thing is that there is a real desire among the players to build on that performance," Graham Henry, the All Blacks coach, said. "It's good to be back in Christchurch, there's a real Test match buzz in the city and the guys are really looking forward to playing in the re-built AMI Stadium." Ma'a Nonu, the centre, who made his debut as a 21-year-old against England in 2003, is set to reach a milestone by playing his 50th Test.
Tony Woodcock will play his 67th Test at prop, making him the most capped All Black ever in that position. Cowan's rib injury means a place on the bench for Alby Mathewson, the uncapped half-back, while Benson Stanley, the dynamic Australian-born back, comes in for Israel Dagg among the replacements. The All Blacks will be chasing their fourth win in four Tri Nations games after beating world champions South Africa twice on home soil and claiming their eighth win in a row over Australia.
Meanwhile Sanzar (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby) says a misconduct charge against Peter de Villiers, the South Africa coach, will be heard in Cape Town on Friday. The governing body announced yesterday that the charge will be heard by Jannie Lubbe, its judicial officer. De Villiers is charged with breaching Sanzar's code of conduct in comments made on July 21 on Australian television, when he criticised the performance of Tri Nations referees and implied a conspiracy to bolster next year's World Cup in New Zealand.