14 Oct 2011

Dagg and Kahui back to take on Wallabies

8:17 pm on 14 October 2011

All Blacks coach Graham Henry has named a largely predictable side for their rugby World Cup semifinal against Australia on Sunday.

Henry brought fullback Israel Dagg and utility Richard Kahui back from injury, while Aaron Cruden assumed the starting role at first five-eighth after Colin Slade was ruled out with a groin strain.

Captain Richie McCaw was also included in a forward pack that has been Henry's first choice for 12 months, Reuters reports.

Cruden had only been brought into the squad after Daniel Carter tore a tendon in his groin while training before the All Blacks' final pool game against Canada. Carter had surgery on the injury on Monday in Melbourne and is expected to be fully recovered in about 12 weeks.

"Pretty straightforward (to select)," Henry said in Auckland on Friday. "We have played 10 tests in the last 12 weeks, we should know what we're doing by now.

"(But) it's a big game isn't it? It's the biggest game a lot of them have played in, probably the biggest game in 10 years."

McCaw has been battling persistent foot pain and barely took part in training all week, though Henry said the team had decided it was best to be pragmatic in managing his workload.

His inclusion ensures Henry has named his strongest possible pack, which is where the All Blacks have a slight advantage, particularly at scrums with the front row of Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, and Owen Franks becoming more and more destructive as the tournament has gone on.

Dagg, who has been impressive throughout, will slot easily back into the fullback role after Mils Muliaina broke his shoulder last week against Argentina in their 33-10 quarter-final victory.

Utility back Richard Kahui returned to the wing after missing two games, though the 26-year-old, who normally plays centre, has also been superb with four tries and Sonny Bill Williams has dropped to the reserves bench along with Stephen Donald and Andy Ellis.

Henry said Williams has been a great player to bring off the bench. "He can play a number of positions and he has become a bit of a super sub."


First XV

Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Richard Kahui, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Brad Thorn, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.


Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Ali Williams, Victor Vito, Andy Ellis, Stephen Donald, Sonny Bill Williams.