All Blacks back to full strength

Australia host New Zealand in the second Bledisloe Cup match on Saturday in Brisbane, knowing that anything but a win will see the All Blacks retain the Cup. [more]

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Australia host New Zealand in the second Bledisloe Cup match on Saturday in Brisbane, knowing that anything but a win will see the All Blacks retain the Cup.

Both sides come into the match feeling confident after posting convincing Tri-Nations wins over South Africa in recent weeks, with Australia romping to a record 49-0 scoreline two weeks ago while the All Blacks chalked up a 35-17 point victory last weekend in Wellington.

The All Blacks rested seven players from the opening Bledisloe Cup match for last week’s game against South Africa, but all seven are back in the squad for the game against Australia.

In the scrum, hooker Keven Mealamu and prop Tony Woodcock return to the front row while Jerry Collins is back at blindside flanker.

In the backs, Byron Kelleher replaces the injured Piri Weepu at scrum-half, Aaron Mauger returns to the centre with Joe Rokocoko and Rico Gear re-installed on the wings.

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The only change to the team that beat Australia 32-12 in Christchurch on July 8 sees Ali Williams in the second-row pushing lock Jason Eaton back to the bench.

Australian prop Rodney Blake has recovered from an ankle strain he suffered against England in the Cook Cup clash in Melbourne a month ago and will get his first taste of facing the All Blacks.

Inside centre Matt Giteau also faces the New Zealanders for the first time this year. The 24-year-old put in a man-of-the-match performance against the Springboks in the Tri-Nations match two weeks ago and his playmaking skills could give the Wallabies a big advantage outside fly-half Stephen Larkham.

The battle of the loose forwards is also expected to be a highlight and the All Blacks trio of Richie McCaw, Collins and Rodney So’oialo were outstanding in the opening Bledisloe Cup match in Christchurch.

But with Rocky Elsom back at blindside, George Smith at openside and the hard running Scott Fava at number eight, the Wallabies may just have the right ingredients to match them.

Australia: Chris Latham; Mark Gerrard, Stirling Mortlock, Matt Giteau, Lote Tuqiri; Stephen Larkham, George Gregan (capt); Greg Holmes, Jeremy Paul, Rodney Blake, Nathan Sharpe, Dan Vickerman, Rocky Elsom, George Smith, Scott Fava.
Reserves: Tai McIsaac, Al Baxter, Guy Shepherdson, Mark Chisholm, Phil Waugh, Wycliff Palu, Sam Cordingley, Mat Rogers, Clyde Rathbone (two to be omitted)

New Zealand: Leon MacDonald; Rico Gear, Mils Mulianina, Aaron Mauger, Joe Rokocoko; Daniel Carter, Byron Kelleher; Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Carl Hayman, Ali Williams, Chris Jack, Jerry Collins, Richie McCaw (capt), Rodney So’oialo.
Reserves: Andrew Hore, Greg Somerville, Jason Eaton, Chris Masoe, Jimmy Cowan, Luke McAlister, Isaia Toeava

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