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All Blacks trio face late fitness test

Dan Carter, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock face late fitness tests before getting the green light to take to the pitch against England at Twickenham on Saturday.

 
 

Keven Mealamu

DAN CARTER, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock face late fitness tests before getting the green light to take to the pitch against England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Coach Steve Hansen has picked a strong side for the tour-ending match, but Carter (Achilles), Mealamu and Woodcock (both calf) must prove they have overcome injuries to take their place in the starting line-up.

If Carter is out, Aaron Cruden, as he did against Wales where he kicked 18 points, will start and Beuden Barrett will move onto the bench.

Tamati Ellison will replace Ben Smith in the reserves as second-five cover.

Dane Coles is on stand-by for Mealamu, with Hika Elliot is also waiting for a call-up to the bench, while Wyatt Crockett and Ben Franks are the reserve props.

“DC, Woody and Kevvy obviously got through training the other day and we’re comfortable enough to name them at this stage, but they’ll have to get through Thursday [Friday NZT],” Hansen told Fairfax NZ.

Brodie Retallick is the other change to the side that beat Wales, starting at lock ahead of Luke Romano in a match that should be a good test of his progress.

“He’s had a couple of games off the bench and has a big motor and goes all day long,” Hansen said.

“We just think this game will suit him. It gives Luke a chance to have a break. “Both of them are rookies and have had a big year so it’s just an opportunity to subtly change it but not too much.”

Julian Savea has kept his spot at left wing, keeping Hosea Gear out of the side, and naming a full strength side against a struggling English outfit signals they do not want to lose at the final hurdle.

“He’s clearly the best wing in his position, Cory Jane and him on form,” Hansen said of Savea.

“He was really good in Cardiff. He was peppered with high balls. He’s learning all the time. He’s certainly not the finished product but he’s worthy of the start.”

They were determined to finish the tour on a high.

“We thought about a lot of the players and how they are after such a long season,” he said. “We’ve recovered well as a group. We said we’d pick the best team for the last two tests and we’ve done that.

“There’s been a consistency through most of the season and we’ve tried to build the combinations and if guys are fit and available we’ve tried to pick them.”

Andrew Hore, as expected, was suspended for his hit on Wales’ Bradley Davis in the second minute of the test.

He is banned for five matches, although three of them will be pre-season matches for the Highlanders.

New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (c), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumunia, Brodie Retallick, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.

IMAGE: Southbanksteve via Wikimedia Commons

 
 

 

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