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All Blacks start Taylor at 10 against Wallabies

Tom Taylor has been selected at 10 ahead of Colin Slade

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Article Published: Wednesday 21 August 2013|

New Zealand rugby head coach Steve Hansen has selected uncapped Tom Taylor ahead of the more experienced Colin Slade for the All Blacks Rugby Championship Test against Australia.

Crusaders utility Taylor will win his first All Black cap when he comes into the team after the losses of flyhalves Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett to injury.

The All Blacks coaches were expected to award the starting role to the more experienced Slade, who played the latest of his 10 tests for New Zealand during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Instead, they have opted for the greener of their two available flyhalves, promoting Taylor and naming Slade on the bench.

Head coach Steve Hansen said Taylor was "mentally tough and plays the game with a lot of confidence and maturity."

The promotion of the 24-year-old Taylor to the starting role is still a significant gamble by the All Blacks coaches as he isn't used as a specialist flyhalf by the Christchurch-based Crusaders.

He has covered a variety of backline roles since making his Super Rugby debut in 2012, playing seven times at inside center and three times at fullback this season.

The son of Warwick Taylor, who was an All Blacks center from 1983 to 1988 and nephew of Murray Taylor who was also an All Blacks utility - he has in his favor a better goal-kicking record this season than Slade, kicking 90 percent this year. Hansen said his mental toughness and composure tipped the selection scales in his favor.

"These factors, along with his assured goalkicking under pressure, have made this an easy selection," Hansen said. "We have every faith that he will handle the occasion with aplomb."

The All Blacks were left to contend with a crisis at flyhalf when both Cruden and Barrett were injured during New Zealand's 47-29 win over Australia in the first round of the Rugby Championships last weekend.

Carter was ruled out of the first two Championships matches with a calf injury, awarding the starting role to Cruden who suffered a knee injury during the late stages of the match in Sydney.

Barrett took the field as his replacement but suffered a slight calf strain and was limping by the match's end.

Carter may be fit to return for New Zealand's third-round match against Argentina at Hamilton on Sept. 7. Cruden is out of action for between two and six weeks and Barrett is expected to be fit within a week.

Taylor's selection also reinforces the All Blacks' selectors long-standing preference for players from the Crusaders over better-performed and more-experienced players from other teams.

Crusaders center Ryan Crotty made his All Blacks debut as a replacement during last weekend's opening test in Sydney.

In other features of the team, Brodie Retallick has been promoted from the bench to the starting 15 as a replacement for lock Luke Romano who suffered a groin strain last weekend and will miss the remainder of the Rugby Championships.

Jeremy Thrush, who made his test debut against France in June, takes Retallick's place on an inexperienced All Blacks bench on which prop Wyatt Crockett, with 14 tests, is the most-capped player.

Prop Tony Woodcock will play his 100th test, becoming the fourth New Zealand test centurion after captain Richie McCaw (117), hooker Keven Mealamu (105) and retired fullback Mils Muliaina (100).

McCaw will play his 31st test against Australia on Saturday, setting a record for the most test appearances by a player against one country.

His 118th test appearance will also allow him to tie France's Fabien Pelous as the fifth most-capped player in test history after Australia's George Gregan (139), Ireland's Bryan O'Driscoll (133) and Ronan O'Gara (130) and England's Justin Leonard (119).

The Wallabies will name their team later Thursday.

New Zealand will retain the Bledisloe Cup - extending its 10-year hold on the trophy played for annually against Australia - if it wins Saturday's match. Hansen said Australia would be determined to prevent that happening.

"They will be hurting after (last week's) test and will throw everything at us," he said.

"They will be looking to play with more accuracy and intensity so we will need to meet or better that with a higher level of execution right across the board, if we are to be successful."

New Zealand

Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Tom Taylor, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Steven Luatua, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Jeremy Thrush, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Colin Slade, Charles Piutau.

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