Keo.co.za brings you the latest from the All Blacks’ Grand Slam tour.
SBW show returns - Sonny Bill Williams will start at inside centre when the All Blacks face Wales on Saturday.
Williams was relegated to the bench in the All Blacks’ 38-18 win over Ireland last weekend, but has been promoted ahead of Ma’a Nonu for the Cardiff Test in one of five changes made by head coach Graham Henry.
In the backline, wing Isaia Toeava and scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan also start as they replace Cory Jane and Andy Ellis respectively. Amongst the forwards, lock Brad Thorn has recovered from his hamstring injury and will make his 50th Test appearance as he replaces the injured Tom Donnelly, while hooker Keven Mealamu also returns after serving his two-week ban at the expense of Hika Elliot.
On the bench, flanker Daniel Braid is preferred ahead of Liam Messam.
All Blacks – 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Isaia Toeava, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 John Afoa, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Daniel Braid, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Ma’a Nonu
Hansen defends McCaw & co – Steven Hansen hit back at those who accuse Richie McCaw and the All Blacks of cheating.
McCaw has been criticzed of foul play at the breakdown before as he frustrates oppositions by slowing down their ball. Irish flanker Stephen Ferris is the latest person to accuse McCaw of being a dirty player.
‘If I’d been a referee I would have handed out a couple of yellow cards. It’s the usual old faces that are doing it, but they’re good at it and get away with it. Richie McCaw did a great job at slowing it down,’ claimed Ferris.
All Blacks assistant coach Hansen came out in McCaw’s defence.
‘He is the greatest openside flanker in the game and probably knows the rules better than the referees do,’ said Hansen.
‘When you make a tackle and get up and you are on their side of that tackle, he is entitled to be there until a ruck is formed – and the ruck is not formed until two guys are bound over the ball.
‘It is actually becoming quite boring and I think quite disrespectful,’ Hansen continued. ‘All it really does, though, is actually motivate him to play better, so they want to keep doing it. I will keep putting up with the boring-ness of it so he gets motivated.’
Hansen also hit back at Wallabies head coach Robbie Deans, who accused the All Blacks of ‘trickery’ and believed they ‘manipulated’ referees at the scrums.
‘It is laughable, really. I mean, I think Richie summed it up best – when you are under pressure you say funny things and Rob is obviously under a bit of pressure himself,’ said Hansen.
‘He seems to always fall back and start talking about New Zealand when he is actually involved with the Australians.’
‘Carter’s amazing’ – Neil Jenkins believes Dan Carter is the best rugby player in the world.
Carter is set to break England pivot Jonny Wilkinson’s record for most Test points (1178) when the All Blacks face Wales on Saturday. Carter is only two points behind.
Former Wales flyhalf Jenkins believes Carter will have his moment at the Millennium Stadium this weekend, which he deserves.
‘He is probably the best, I think he is an amazing rugby player,’ Jenkins said. ‘I just think he is an incredible rugby player. To be the stand-out player he is, for this amount of time, is very special and his record speaks for itself.
‘He is an overall fantastic rugby player, not just with his goal kicking. I don’t think he has got a weakness in his game, you know, not that we know about in this moment in time.’