Graham Henry has made three changes for New Zealand’s crunch semi-final clash with Australia on Sunday. The big news is that their talismanic skipper Richie McCaw is fit to take his place in the All Black starting XV.
Aaron Cruden comes in for out half Colin Slade after he was replaced during the 33-10 victory over Argentina through injury. Israel Dragg comes in at full back for Mils Mulliani who has played his last game for the All Blacks after it was announced he would miss the remainder of the tournament through injury.
The final change is a bit more surprising though. The excellent and very talented Sonny Bill Williams drops to the bench and is replaced on the wing by Richard Kahui. Bill-Williams’ record of ‘going missing’ during a game and his hit and miss nature might have worked against him as the All Blacks look to win their second Webb Ellis trophy on home soil.
Stephen Donald comes into the match day squad as out half cover while Andy Ellis is the scrum half on the bench. “The team was very happy with the way they played in the quarter-final win over Argentina.
It was a really intense battle and that’s what we needed heading into this weekend’s match.
We have been building slowly this week to be ready for Sunday night when we know there will need to be a further lift in intensity and physicality. It’s a semi-final in the Rugby World Cup and the team is excited by the challenge that lies ahead.” Henry told the media after announcing his side.
They face Australia on Sunday in the second semi final after the Aussies knocked out the holders, South Africa last weekend.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg , 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Richard Kahui, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Piri Weepu , 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw(c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Brad Thorn, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements:16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Sonny Bill Williams.