Henry hails halves pairing

New Zealand coach Graham Henry has paid tribute to veteran Australia duo George Gregan and Stephen Larkham ahead of their Tri-Nations clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday. [more]

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New Zealand coach Graham Henry has paid tribute to veteran Australia duo George Gregan and Stephen Larkham ahead of their Tri-Nations clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday.

The contest will be the final Bledisloe Cup match in Australia for the halves pairing – Gregan has been on the international scene since 1994 while Larkham debuted in 1996.

And with the duo representing the ACT Brumbies since the outset of professional rugby, they have been even more exposed to New Zealand teams and fans down the years in Super rugby.

"They’ve caused a lot of headaches over the years, which is great," said Henry of the duo.

"As a pair I think they’ve been leaders in the world in their time at number nine and 10 and for a long time, we’ve got a lot of respect for that and a lot of respect for them as people.

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"We’ll miss them, but I guess Father Time catches up and I guess there will be somebody else will take their place and rise again so those guys have been outstanding, outstanding competitors and outstanding people and I think Australian rugby should be very proud of them.

"I know our guys respect them," he added. Henry made a number of changes from the side which beat South Africa last Saturday, opting for a new centre combination.

In-form outside centre Isaia Toeava is out with a bruised shoulder while Aaron Mauger, last week’s inside centre in the 26-21 win over the Springboks in Durban, has been named on the bench.

Luke McAlister starts at number 12 while Mils Muliaina moves to outside centre with Leon MacDonald starting at full-back.

Rico Gear takes over on the wing for Sitiveni Sivivatu, who is being rested after last week’s physical encounter in South Africa.

Byron Kelleher and Dan Carter are the starting halves once again, while Chris Jack comes back into the second-row alongside Troy Flavell to bolster a formidable All Blacks pack.

Richie McCaw, Jerry Collins and Rodney So’oialo are a menacing loose trio while the Tony Woodcock, Anton Oliver and Carl Hayman will be an acid test for the Wallabies front row.

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