8 Sep 2011

Dagg picked over Muliaina but he's not necessarily first choice

6:25 am on 8 September 2011

Israel Dagg has been selected ahead of Mils Muliaina at fullback for the All Blacks opening rugby World Cup match against Tonga at Eden Park on Friday night.

The pair appear to be in a close battle for the number 15 jersey.

Dagg has shot into contention after impressing in the Tri-Nations match against South Africa in Port Elizabeth last month.

Coach Graham Henry says he doesn't know who is his first choice fullback and he's giving the likes of Dagg the chance to continue to press a claim.

Richard Kahui and Isaia Toeava have been named on the wings, while Ma'a Nonu shifts to centre to allow Sonny Bill Williams to play inside centre in a huge backline to combat the physical Tongans.

Captain Richie McCaw will earn his 99th Test cap, though rumour has it he'll be rested for the Japan game in Hamilton and Muliaina will skipper the side with both running out for their 100th against France the following weekend.

Wellington loose forward Victor Vito will start at number eight for the injured Kieran Read, while Jerome Kaino returns to the starting lineup after he missed the final Tri-Nations match against Australia last month to return home to be with his pregnant partner.

Tony Woodcock was named to start at loosehead prop, despite aggravating an old hamstring injury at training this week.