Rugby Championship News

McAlister trumps Mauger for AB start





New Zealand coach Graham Henry has made thre changes to the team that will contest both Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations against Australia in Auckland on Saturday.

The biggest eyebrow-raiser is the inclusion of Luke McAlister in the centre instead of Aaron Mauger, suggesting that McAlister may finally be number one in the pecking order for that position.

Elsewhere, there are returns for Byron Kelleher at scrum-half, Jerry Collins on the flank, and Anton Oliver at hooker, suggesting Henry has opted for his most experienced side for the crunch match, both teams’ last competitive hit-off before the Rugby World Cup.

“Luke is playing better than Aaron at the moment,” said Henry, keeping his reasoning simple and ading that it was the ‘best team for this game’.

On the bench, Brendon Leonard keeps his place, and Keven Mealamu is also called, suggesting that New Zealand will attempt to open up the game from the bench in the latter stages.

“He’s (Leonard) a good player to having come off the bench,” Henry said.

“He put his hand up last weekend.”

“Our performance improved last week and we are after more improvement this week, and we are close to playing the type of rugby we want to play.

“The Bledisloe Cup and the Philips Tri Nations are hugely important to New Zealand and we would like to claim those honours again.”

New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Byron Kelleher, 8 Rodney So’oialo, 7 Richie McCaw (capt), 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Chris Jack, 4 Keith Robinson, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Anton Oliver, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Neemia Tialata, 18 Reuben Thorne, 19 Chris Masoe, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Aaron Mauger, 22 Nick Evans.

Date: Saturday, July 21
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19:35 (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Touch judges: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Mark Lawrence (South Africa)
Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)
Assessor: Brendan McCormick (Australia)
365 Digital

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