23 Jul 2009

All Blacks coach says choosing a halfback for test was difficult

11:44 am on 23 July 2009

The All Blacks coach, Graham Henry, says the decision to replace halfback Jimmy Cowan with Brendan Leonard is probably one of the hardest the selectors have had to make for a while.

Leonard's inclusion is one of two changes to the side to take on the Springboks in Bloemfontein on Sunday morning, with winger Joe Rokocoko returning in place of Cory Jane.

Henry says Cowan had one of his best tests against the Wallabies last weekend, but Leonard needed a chance.

"We.think they'er both talented footballers we see Piri as the guy who comes on nd changes the game for us so if we didn't play Brendan he was just going to fade away so we needed to get him onto the field and give him the opportunity and respect his ability just like we respect Jimmy's so we also think the conditions suits his style so we'll wait and see what happens."

And Henry says while Rokocoko's form hasn't been great this year he's trained well for the last couple of weeks, and he looks ready to produce his best.

The full squad is: 15-Mils Muliaina, 14-Joe Rokocoko, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Ma'a Nonu, 11-Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10-Stephen Donald, 9-Brendon Leonard, 8-Rodney So'oialo, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 6-Jerome Kaino, 5-Isaac Ross, 4-Brad Thorn, 3-Neemia Tialata, 2-Andrew Hore, 1-Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: 16-Keven Mealamu, 17-Owen Franks, 18-Jason Eaton, 19-Kieran Read, 20-Piri Weepu, 21-Luke McAlister, 22-Cory Jane.